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Published May 04, 2011, 12:00 AM

Halgrimson: Crunch time, s’il vous plait

When I was growing up, we had a rackety, old appliance for making toasted cheese sandwiches. It was rectangular and opened up so the sandwiches could be put inside on a heated surface and then the top was closed. In a few minutes the bread would be toasty and the cheese melted. I liked to eat mine with chili sauce.

By: Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, INFORUM

When I was growing up, we had a rackety, old appliance for making toasted cheese sandwiches.

It was rectangular and opened up so the sandwiches could be put inside on a heated surface and then the top was closed. In a few minutes the bread would be toasty and the cheese melted. I liked to eat mine with chili sauce.

When I reached my teens and became interested in cooking, I’d add some thinly sliced salami to the sandwich. I thought I was being very innovative.

Basically what I was making was a Croque Monsieur without the béchamel sauce and using salami rather than ham. Béchamel sauce came to my cooking efforts much later.

A good sandwich begins with good bread, which we always had at our house because either Mom or Gram baked it. We were not allowed to eat store-bought bread.

A Croque Monsieur is just a cheese sandwich with ham inside. It is toasted and covered with béchamel sauce, a simple, basic white sauce, and then it is broiled to brown the top. If made correctly, it can be delicious.

Croque comes from the French verb croquer – meaning, to crunch.

Our old sandwich toaster is long gone, but I checked around to see if a similar appliance is still available. I found them online with prices ranging from about $40 to $700. I think I’ll just keep making mine in a frying pan.

Croque Monsieur

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1½ cups warm milk

salt and freshly ground pepper

sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg

6 ounces (1½ cups) Swiss cheese, grated

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

8 slices good quality bread

12 ounces thinly sliced ham

Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

For the béchamel sauce:

Melt butter in a small saucepan on medium heat. Add flour and cook, stirring until smooth. Slowly add warmed milk, stirring with a wire whisk, until sauce is thick. Remove from heat and add salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir in Parmesan and ¼ cup of the grated Swiss. Set aside.

For the sandwiches:

Place bread slices on a baking sheet and toast in the oven, a few minutes each side, until lightly browned.

Lightly brush 4 slices with mustard and add ham and evenly spread the Swiss cheese on the ham. Top with 4 toasted bread slices.

Spoon béchamel sauce over sandwiches. Sprinkle with a little Swiss cheese, and place on a broiling pan. Bake 5 minutes. Turn on broiler and cook until cheese is bubbling and lightly browned. Makes 4 sandwiches.

Note: If you top this sandwich with a fried egg, it becomes a Croque Madame.

Source: http://simplyrecipes.com


Readers can reach Forum columnist Andrea Hunter Halgrimson at halgrimson@forumcomm.com

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