Do you remember the scene in the movie It's Complicated when Steve Martin's character is over at Meryl Streep's character's home working on some architectural plans for a new addition and it gets late and he decides to stay over for dinner and she nonchalantly whips up a few croque monsieur sandwiches and he proceeds to falls madly in love over the kitchen island? Well. I certainly do. I mean, who wouldn't fall in love with a woman who can stroll into her kitchen, glance cursorily over the contents of her refrigerator and produce something as heart-stoppingly delicious as the best ham and cheese sandwich ever invented?
I watched the movie for the first time on Sunday when I was too wilted (read: hungover) from Saturday night's escapades to do much else. By the time the credits were rolling, I had resolved to learn how to make this French standard--I would perfect the croque monsieur, no matter how many attempts it took. (Incidentally, I also couldn't really think of anything better to cure my vodka-induced headache.)
Surprisingly, it only took two recipes/two tries to produce a flawless croque monsieur. My first attempt was a bit too salty, a little too rich. But the second--oh, the second. It was everything I'd hoped it would be. The crispy coating of lightly toasted cheese on the outside gave way to a steaming hot, melt-in-your-mouth layer of Black Forest ham and melted Gruyère on the inside. It's comfort in a sandwich.
Believe me, you want this recipe in your arsenal. You want to make this for your boyfriend when he comes over late at night, tired and cranky after a long day at the office. You want to fix it up for your best friend when she's crying on your shoulder over whatever the latest life crisis happens to be. And you'll want to know how to make it if a chance meeting suddenly morphs unexpectedly into a first date a la Martin and Streep. All around, knowing how to make it will make you a better person. And that's a pretty hard argument to resist. Just like a perfect croque monsieur.
Adapted from Bon Appetit
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1 bay leaf
4 slices firm white sandwich bread
4 ounces thinly sliced Black Forest ham
4 ounces sliced Gruyère cheese
1 tablespoon melted butter
1/4 cup grated Gruyère cheese
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and stir 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk. Add nutmeg and bay leaf. Increase heat to medium-high and boil until sauce thickens, whisking constantly, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Preheat broiler. Place 2 bread slices on work surface. Top each with half of ham and sliced Gruyère. Top with remaining bread. Heat heavy large skillet over low heat. Brush sandwiches with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Add to skillet and cook until deep golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to small baking sheet. Spoon sauce, then grated cheese over sandwiches. Broil until cheese begins to brown, about 2 minutes.