Halgrimson: Crunch time, s’il vous plaitWhen 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.
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
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.
Readers can reach Forum columnist Andrea Hunter Halgrimson at firstname.lastname@example.org