There are certain realities one must accept in life. As lovely and fancy and French and delectable as a croque monsieur is, it's still (basically) a ham and cheese sandwich. Not just any ham and cheese sandwich though. It's Croque Monsieur: The Best Ham and Cheese Sandwich You'll Ever Eat. It's important to admit this early in the process.
Croque Monsieur and All That Lovely Cheese!
At least once per year, usually after Easter, I make croque monsieur sandwiches with the leftover Easter ham. You can make this with thin sliced ham from the deli as well, of course, so don't you worry.
In the past, I made this sandwich with gruyere cheese. However, I was reading that the traditional cheese for croque monsieur is called Emmantaler. They don't always have this at the store, but I was able to find it and chose to use both cheeses. I also had a little block of fresh parmesan on hand, so I grated that as well. I think all these cheeses pair together very well and make for the perfect balance of flavors.
There is a really sweet video on YouTube about where and how Emmantaler cheese is made. If you have any interest in cheese making, here you go: How Swiss Emmantaler Cheese is Made.
All that being said, I realize there is an enormous amount of cheese in this recipe. I know. It's indulgent and cheesy and over-the-top. Here's the thing: cheese it up to your comfort level. If you think it's too much cheese, simply use less. There. Life is a choice. Cooking is a choice. Cheese is a choice. Use more if you want. Use less if you want.
High Quality Bread is Critcial for Croque Monsieur
If you've seen my Pork Schnitzel Sandwich w/Pickled Red Onions, Melty Swiss and Savory Caper Spread, you know that I recommend (insist is more like it) using a high-quality bread when making gourmet sandwiches. The croque monsieur is no different. For the pork schnitzel, I used Iggy's Bread from Cambridge, MA. For the croque monsieur, I used Nashoba Brook Bakery . Specifically, the sliced French loaf. The bakery is located in West Concord, MA but they also sell their bread at local Hannaford's and I'm loving that. So find a great quality bread for this one - this won't work well on generic white bread.
Croque Monsieurs Were a Surprising Option for Future Lunches
If you read my blog regularly, you know that I often cook with leftovers in mind. For this sandwich, I used bread that comes in huge slices. It was only possible to eat half a sandwich they were so big. In other words, we had a feast, as usual. Lots of leftovers and I froze some which worked out great!
I knew I wanted to experiment with freezing these sandwiches because it seemed impossible they would be bad defrosted and reheated. It was a bigger success than I could have imagined. The sandwich defrosted on the counter, then I popped it in the toaster oven and baked it on a small sheet pan. Tasted just as fresh as the original. You could also place it in the refrigerator overnight to defrost if you're planning to eat it the next day.Print
Croque Monsieur: The Best Ham and Cheese Sandwich You'll Ever Eat
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 4 1x
This really is the best ham and cheese sandwich you'll ever eat. Loaded with cheese this crispy delight is a surefire hit!
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 ½ cups of warm milk
- Pinch of salt and pepper
- Pinch of nutmeg
- ½ cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
High Quality Bread
- 8 slices high quality white bread (see note)
- 4 pieces of fresh baked ham (or deli ham - see note #1)
- 4 cups shredded emmantaler cheese
- 2 ¼ cups shredded gruyere
- 1 cup fresh shredded parmesan cheese (optional)
- 1 ½ tablespoons Dijon mustard (approx.)
- Béchamel sauce
- fresh thyme sprigs
- Make your béchamel sauce first. Add butter to a pot and melt it (low-to-medium heat), then add the flour and mix. Should cook and constantly stir for a few minutes. We want to cook the raw flour taste out of it. Add the warm milk and stir (I heated in microwave). It should thicken in a few minutes or less. Then add the fresh grated parmesan cheese and stir. Add a pinch each of salt, pepper, nutmeg and stir. TASTE IT here to make sure there is enough salt. Stir once more and set aside to let cool down. If it's not thick enough add a pinch more flour and stir then a little more cheese and stir.
- Shred all your cheeses and put in bowls.
- Have your ham slices ready to go.
- Put your bread on a sheet pan to start assembling your sandwiches. See note#6 below. You may choose to heat your bread slices in the oven for 5-10 minutes first - a lot of people do this. The particular bread I chose didn't need that, but other breads I'ved used do. You don't want the slices golden brown, just lightly toasted. Once that is done, take the slices out of the oven and THEN start with building your sandwiches.
- HERE’S THE LAYERING ORDER: (my video shows this very well) Béchamel on bottom slice > ham slices on top of béchamel > shredded gruyere and parmesan (if using) on top of ham > thin layer of Dijon mustard on top slice > Place top slice on sandwich > spread the rest of béchamel on top of the sandwich > distribute emmantaler cheese on top of sandwiches > any leftover cheese can be added to the tops as well.
- Put sandwiches in a preheated oven at 425 degrees and cook for 7-10 minutes until cheese melts and bread toasts a bit.
- Move oven rack up closer to the broiler and switch broiler to high to brown and crisp your sandwiches for about 5 minutes. Keep your eye on them here or they could burn. (see note below)
- Let sandwiches cool a few minutes before serving.
- I used leftover Easter ham so the pieces were thicker. If you’re using deli ham, I would say 2-3 slices per sandwich would work depending on the size of your bread.
- The cheese. The packaging for the emmantaler cheese read .65 lbs and I got almost four cups shredded from that. The gruyere package read .445 lbs and I got 2 ¼ cups shredded from that.
- If you can’t find emmantaler cheese you can use all gruyere.
- You’ll see in the video that I had a little extra shredded cheese at the end which I added to the tops of the sandwiches. I left no shred behind!
- For the warm milk, I microwaved it for 45 seconds.
- Some recipes call for you to lightly toast your bread in the oven before you assemble the sandwiches. I decided not to do this because of the bread I chose. I use this brand frequently and I know that if you toast it too much it works against you. It’s your call if you want to toast the bread for a few minutes, then pull the bread out and start assembling the sandwiches.
- Broilers run down the center of our ovens so it was necessary for me to shift the sheet pan around at the broiling stage so all the sandwiches got crispy.
- As mentioned in the blog post: you really must use high quality bread when making a gourmet sandwich. I used Nashoba Brook Bakery sliced French bread.
Totally gourmet grilled ham and cheese. FANTASTIC!
It was very delicious! We made this for brunch everybody loved it.
Hey Charlie! I'm so happy to hear this. Thanks for checking out my site AND actually making one of my recipes. I appreciate that.