I first enjoyed a croque monsieur at a little café in the Tuileries Gardens in Paris (!) paired with a butter lettuce salad with lemon vinaigrette, and a perfect little glass of sparkling Crémant. Since that first bite, I sought to recreate the flavors at home. Leave it to Barefoot Contessa, from her Barefoot in Paris cookbook to perfectly replicate this decadent sandwich. Here's how to make it.
1 tablespoon butter, unsalted
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup hot milk
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Whole nutmeg, for grating
6 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
8 slices of rustic, country bread
4 ounces of ham, thickly sliced
1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt putter and add flour, stirring with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Pour the hot milk into the butter and cook, whisking constantly until the sauce thickens. This action creates the "béchamel sauce." Remove the sauce from the heat and add the salt and pepper. Freshly grate a few pinches from the whole nutmeg with a Microplane. Add in half of the Gruyère and all of the Parmesan and set aside.
3. Toast the bread by placing the slices on a baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes. Turn each slice, then bake for another 2 minutes.
4. Brush each slice of toasted bread with Dijon, add a slice of ham to half the bread, and sprinkle the ham with the remainder of the Gruyère. Top each ham slice with the other piece of bread, mustard side down. Thickly layer the top of each sandwich with the béchamel sauce and bake for 5 minutes. Then, turn the broiler on high, and watching very closely, broil the sandwiches for 3-5 minutes, or just until the tops are bubbling and slightly brown. Serve immediately.