Best of all, this sandwich takes about ten minutes and is the ultimate people pleaser, great for entertaining at a moment's notice, and glorious when paired with a crisp mesclun salad. Don't settle for plain 'ol swiss cheese, you really need the Gruyere to achieve the wow factor. You want it. You need it. I need you to want and need it. :)
My favorite Croque Monsieur recipe is Ina Garten's. She is the Barefoot Contessa, has her own atelier in Paris, and knows her French stuff. This is a real knife and fork sandwich. Try it, I promise you won't be disappointed! Here's the link.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups hot milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
12 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated (5 cups)
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
16 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
8 ounces baked Virginia ham, sliced but not paper thin
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan and add the flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Slowly pour the hot milk into the butter–flour mixture and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thickened. Off the heat add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, ½ cup grated Gruyère, and the Parmesan and set aside.
To toast the bread, place the slices on two baking sheets and bake for 5 minutes. Turn each slice and bake for another 2 minutes, until toasted.
Lightly brush half the toasted breads with mustard, add a slice of ham to each, and sprinkle with half the remaining Gruyère. Top with another piece of toasted bread. Slather the tops with the cheese sauce, sprinkle with the remaining Gruyère, and bake the sandwiches for 5 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the topping is bubbly and lightly browned. Serve hot.
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