Croque Monsieur Original | Authentic French Sandwich Recipe

Croque Monsieur Original | Authentic French Sandwich Recipe

Croque Monsieur Original | Authentic French Sandwich Recipe

The Croque Monsieur is the quintessential French Sandwich. In this Croque Monsieur recipe, we’re going to do things the original, traditional way, making this classic French Sandwich as authentically as possible.

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Croque Monsieur Original | Authentic French Sandwich Recipe
Croque Monsieur Original | Authentic French Sandwich Recipe

Introduction

Sandwiches to me were always simple things. They were two slices of perfectly square bread, moist, but flat, within which there could be found a plain or uneven filling. Somehow rarely both.

They came in several varieties. There was the peanut butter and jam variety. A classic I would sooner come to realise had almost a cult following over in America.

And there was the beef version, usually corned beef or topside and always out of a packet. We were not the kind of family to leave leftovers. Meals were to be devoured, regardless of the natural limitations of a human stomach.

The sandwiches would often contain ham or cheese or even ham and cheese. But that was really the extent of it. A square slice of ham and/or a square slice of cheese, without butter or spread, sauce or dip. They induced a great deal of scratching. Normally at the roof of your own mouth, as you tried to pry away the dried and squashed remnants of your meal.

Nevertheless, this is far from a complaint. They were perfectly delicious, but they were also very simple. So sandwiches to me were always kind of a snack. A lunch, perhaps, but not one you’d order. At least not in the sense I understood them.

If a sandwich were to contain melted cheese, of course, it also had to contain Worcestershire sauce. And nothing else. Yet as delicious as cheese toasties were – and they were! – they did nothing to prepare me for the absolute Grandaddy of them all.

The Croque Monsieur.

Grilling the cheese on top makes this french sandwich absolutely delicious.
Grilling the cheese on top makes this french sandwich absolutely delicious.

About the dish

Far more than the simple cheese toastie I described above, the Croque Monsieur does everything a great sandwich does and then it does some more.

When I first heard of the dish, I understood it to basically be a French ham and cheese sandwich. A particularly nice ham and cheese sandwich, but a ham and cheese sandwich nonetheless.

What I failed to understand was that underpinning this simple French sandwich was the addition of a single, wonderful, perhaps even inspired ingredient: the Bechamel sauce.

That’s where the Croque Monsieur is at its most original. Not content with simply putting wonderful ingredients together on a plate, it adds something that could so easily be perceived as completely unnecessary and absolutely hits the ball all the way out of the park.

And what a difference it makes. Somehow, a simple, creamy sauce that you might think a completely unnecessary attempt at doing what the cheese already does, brings a whole new level of flavour and consistency.

Where the cheese melts and the fattiness really shines through, the bechamel does not. Instead it simply sits, a perfect, velvety foundation for its cheesy crown. And the flavour of nutmeg seems to go for miles and miles.

Whether it’s supposed to be a wonderful companion to cheese and ham I will never know. But it is.

Ed Chef | It's all about the bechamel.
Ed Chef | It’s all about the bechamel.

About this dish

It’s all about the bechamel. We’ll make a lot and we’ll pile it on thick. It makes the absolute world of difference. It’s kind of a given. Because we know that wonderful French sauce is the thing that makes this dish more than just a simple ham and cheese sandwich. But it has to be said. The bechamel sauce in a Croque Monsieur takes it to a place it just could not go on its own.

There are versions made with a mornay sauce instead, where the cheese and bechamel are blended together to make a cheese sauce. It’s an option. It might even be a good option. But it’s not the one we’ll be using here. It’s not traditional and, quite frankly, it’s not better. At least in my opinion.

I used my own bread recipe in the making of the bread for this sandwich. You can find the recipe for my own white Dutch oven bread here. But if you don’t have the time or inclination to make your own bread – which I completely understand – any bread will do, as long as it’s got at least a little bit of character to it.

Oh, and while I actually used a different cheese in these photographs, the commonly accepted cheese in a Croque Monsieur is Gruyere, an original Swiss cheese popular all over the world. Comte is also used in some recipes, but Gruyere is the standard. And for very good reason!

Ed Chef - Croque Monsieur Original | Prep
Ed Chef – Croque Monsieur Original | Prep

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First, we’ll take a couple of slices of bread and butter both sides. We’ll then toast that bread in a hot pan until golden brown, as in the pictures above.

We can then either butter them again or add a little mustard. I favour the latter, but I completely understand the former. How could anyone not?

Next up, we’ll make our bechamel. A big dollop of butter, followed by a fairly similar sized dollop of flour and a good glug of milk. More accurate measurements to follow.

As the bechamel thickens, we continue to stir and we grate up our cheese. A lot of cheese. More cheese than we should really eat at any one time. Oh, and we pre-heat the oven.

From there, it’s a dollop of bechamel, followed by a good handful of cheese and a couple of slices of ham. Then it’s another dollop of bechamel, the top layer of toast, yet another of bechamel and a final layer of cheese.

A few minutes in the oven, followed by a few minutes under the grill and we have a sandwich that we absolutely shouldn’t eat every day. Seriously.

Croque Monsieur Original
Croque Monsieur Original

A few final things to remember

  • I mean it when I say we probably shouldn’t eat like this every day. But when you do eat it, go for it. Use a really good whack of butter in the sauce and on the bread. Use a lot of cheese. Enjoy it. It’s unhealthy, but delicious. So make the most of both!
  • Toasting the bread is always a wonderful step and it always makes the world of difference. It turns a sandwich into a meal. It turns a floppy sad thing into a crisp and delicious flavour bomb. Do it!
  • Be bold with the flavours. At least to an extent that suits you. I go all in with butter, mustard, black pepper and, most important of all, the nutmeg. I really feel like they do amazing things to this sandwich and I don’t think a snack like this particular snack is the right time to start toying with subtlety.
  • But, you know, do what works for you. If you don’t like mustard, don’t include it. If you love ham, go crazy. And if you just want a ham and cheese toasty, absolutely go for it. Don’t listen to me. I’m cooking for myself! Well, kind of.

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Croque Monsieur Original | Authentic French Sandwich Recipe

Croque Monsieur Original | Authentic French Sandwich Recipe

Ed Chef
The Croque Monsieur is the quintessential French Sandwich. In this Croque Monsieur recipe, we’re going to do things the original, traditional way, making this classic French Sandwich as authentically as possible.
Prep Time 25 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Course Lunch, Main Course, Sandwich, Snack
Cuisine French
Servings 2 Sandwiches

Ingredients
  

  • 4 slices White Bread
  • 4 Slices Ham
  • 200 g Gruyere Cheese
  • 125 g Butter
  • 2 tbsp Plain Flour
  • 1/2 cup Milk
  • 1 tsp Nutmeg
  • 1 tsp Black Pepper
  • Parsley
  • Mustard optional

Instructions
 

  • First, take a couple of slices of bread and butter both sides. Toast that bread in a hot, dry pan until golden brown, as in the pictures above.
  • Either butter them again (one side only) or add a little mustard.
  • Next, add 2 tbsp butter to a medium hot pan, followed by roughly the same amount of flour. Cook the flour off in the butter for a few minutes, until it begins to darken, though not by much. Add the nutmeg and black pepper for the last minute.
  • Add half a cup of milk to the pan to loosen it all up. It will quickly re-solidify, so keep stirring. Add more milk if necessary, but you want a thick beschamel. You want to be able to spoon it onto the top of the toast, almost as if to spread it, but with a little give.
  • Grate the cheese. All of it. And pre-heat an oven to 200c.
  • Spoon a generous helping of bechamel onto 2 of the slices of toast, then add a good handful of cheese to each.
  • Top those two slices of toast with 2 slices each of ham, then another layer of bechamel.
  • Finally, add the top layer of the sandwich, followed by another layer of bechamel and the rest of the cheese, then cook it in the oven for 5 or so minutes, until the cheese is completely melted.
  • Finally, open the oven up and switch from oven to grill (aka broiler, depending where you are in the world), giving it another 5 minutes or until it starts to brown and crisp up. Garnish with a little parsley or some chives and devour.
Keyword Cheese and Ham, cheese and ham sandwich, cheese sandwich, Croque Monsieur, Croque Monsieur Original, French Sandwich, French Sandwich Recipe, ham sandwhich

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