Good Day Sir Crunchy
This is part two in an ongoing search for the absolute perfect Grilled Cheese. You can check out round one here. That sandwich was pretty good, but I was ready to kick these trials up a notch. For that I look for help from the French. Allow me to introduce you to the Croque Monsieur – Mr. Crunchy.
Only the French could think of this amazingly rich creation: A grilled ham and cheese topped with a rich buttery cheese sauce and broiled. In fact there is even a version called the Croque Madame which has a fried egg on top. I’m sure that is yummy but it seemed like overkill to me. A 1,000 calorie sandwich – excellent. A 1,200 calorie sandwich – CRAZY.
So let’s get started. I adapted a version I saw on Ina Garten’s site. The problem is that Ina’s recipe makes enough for like 8 sandwiches. Maybe Ina can eat more than one of these, but I definitely can’t. (Joke Ina. You know I love you.) You will need:
Yield: Makes 2 large sandwiches
8 ounces deli ham
2 cup (apprx.) grated Gruyere or good Swiss cheese
1/4 cup grated Parm
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon Flour
3/4 cup milk
Sandwich or French bread
Salt and Pepper
1) Use thick cut toast for these sandwiches and toast them for a few minutes in a 500 degree F. oven. They should be nice and crispy.
2) Add a schmear of mustard to the sandwich if you are using it. Add 1/4 cup grated Swiss or Gruyere to the each sandwich. (save rest for cheese sauce)
3) Add the hamd to the sandwich and let the sandwiches bake for a few minutes in a 300 degree oven.
4) To make the bechamel sauce, add butter and flour to a medium pot and cook over medium heat until the roux turns a light tan color, about 3-4 minutes.
5) Once the roux is a light tan color, slowly whisk in your milk. It will help if the milk is warm.Pour slow and whisk constantly. It should thicken nicely. Then add in all of your cheeses and salt and pepper.
6) Spoon sauce over the sandwiches and broil each for about 5 minutes until it's brown and bubbling.
I cut pretty thick pieces of bread and toasted them for a few minutes in the oven at 500 degrees. You want them pretty crispy. This is Mr. Crunchy. Not Mr. Schmooshy.
After the toasting, assemble the sandwich. I put mustard on mine, but Betsy doesn’t like mustard and it was good without as well. I put mustard on anything I can because I consider it the dream condiment. You want to use about 1/2 cup of your Swiss inside the sandwich. It acts as a glue.
While I worked on my sauce, I let these bake just for a few minutes at 300 degrees just to melt the cheese inside and heat up the ham.
Now let’s talk cheese sauce or as the French call it a Bechamel sauce. First thing you need to do for this (and the hardest part) is make a Roux. Basically, it is butter and flour which cooks down a bit and thickens anything you put in it. Good stuff.
After your Tablespoon of butter melts, slowly whisk in your flour a teaspoon at a time. It should resemble a paste and start to brown a bit. Don’t go watch a movie or anything while this is cooking, it can very easily burn. In fact, guess what. I burned mine which is why the above pot is different from the below pot. It’s like 10 cents worth of ingredients. Just do it over if you break it.
This Roux is almost done. Probably another thirty seconds. Then you slowly whisk in your milk. If you pour all your milk in at once, the flour will clump up and you will have milk dumplings. NOT good on a sandwich. So pour slow and you will eventually get a creamy sauce which you should let cook and bubble a bit on low heat for a few minutes. You want it to be pretty thick. Then add in all of your cheeses and salt and pepper and Nutmeg if you are being a rebel.
This will be a familiar process to you if you’ve ever made serious baked macaroni and cheese. It is almost the exact same process.
Then it is as simple as spooning this amazing sauce over your sandwich and broiling it for about 5 minutes until it is brown and bubbly.
This was a pretty good sandwich. It’s possible that I could make it better I think. The bread was a bit thick, but I’m being pretty critical. It was damn good. Let’s judge it on the same qualities as the first sandwich:
Cheesiness: 9. It is tough to imagine a cheesier sandwich. I won’t give it a 10 just so I have room for improvement.
Bread: 7. I think it was a good bread, but I think I cut it a bit too thick. It was also a bit soft. Something with more heft might have worked better.
Fillings: 7. The ham is a good choice. But that is really all that is in it. Not that it needs anything else. The egg might be a good addition.
Overall: 8. An absolutely fantastic, rich sandwich. Great for a Fall afternoon.
Got an idea for a sandwich to put on the Grilled Cheese Trials? Email it to me or leave it in a comment.