Croque Monsieur

On Monday I was having a grumpy day, so I indulged myself by renting a movie off my Comcast Movies on Demand. I ended up with Meryl Streep’s “It’s Complicated”, most notable (to me) for her character’s Alice Waters-like persona and all the scenes with and discussions of beautiful food. Watching her make Croque Monsieur at one point filled me with a flaming desire to eat same myself (and also got me reading my Alice Waters cookbook again), so here’s the recipe I’ve settled on. I haven’t actually made this yet, so feel free to deviate from the instructions if the Spirit leads. I might. Pair this with a salad of simple greens and vinaigrette and a cold white wine. I might add that in the movie, Meryl sets out homemade lavendar honey ice cream for dessert, so that may be next…

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups hot milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch nutmeg
12 ounces Gruyere, grated (5 cups)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
16 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
Dijon mustard
8 ounces baked Virginia ham, sliced but not paper thin

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

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, 1/2 cup grated Gruyere, and the Parmesan and set aside.

To toast the bread, place the slices on 2 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 Gruyere. Top with another piece of toasted bread. Slather the tops with the cheese sauce, sprinkle with the remaining Gruyere, 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. Serves 4-8.

From Ina Garten’s 2004 Barefoot in Paris.

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