A classic Croque Monsieur recipe, is a hot sandwich made with ham and Gruyère cheese and topped with homemade Béchamel. Perfect for a special brunch!
What is a Croque Monsieur?
I like to think of Croque Monsieur as an elevated ham and cheese sandwich - two slices of bread surround ham and Gruyère cheese, with a touch of mustard. On top, a layer of Béchamel and a bit more cheese. It's all popped in the oven until it is warm, bubbly and melted.
Key ingredients of Croque Monsieur ...
Bread - Pain de Mie is the classic French choice, but Brioche or Challah makes a lovely Croque Monsieur, as well (I've used Brioche here). Alternately, any nice bread is just fine.
Cheese - Gruyere cheese is the most common cheese used, but Comté or Emmental also work well.
Ham - Jambon de Paris (Paris ham) is what the French would use. Parisian ham that is fully cooked, but unsmoked. If unavailable, any ham will work. I prefer a thick slice from a whole ham over deli ham, if I have the option.
Béchamel - a fancy name for a simple white sauce, made from making a butter and flour roux and adding hot milk and seasoning. It's easy to make at home and can be made ahead, too! There is no cheese in classic Béchamel sauce (that would make it a Mornay sauce).
Why you'll love Croque Monsieur
- Croque Monsieur is a great Brunch dish, that is both easy to make and delicious.
- Croque Monsieur is a great use for leftover ham!
- If you make the Bechamel sauce ahead, Croque Monsieur can be ready to enjoy in just 15 minutes, start to finish.
- Croque Monsieur is one of those dishes that makes makes any meal "special", so it's perfect for entertaining or for anytime you want to add special to the menu.
How do you pronounce Croque Monsieur
Croque is pronounced croak and Monsieur is pronounced mih-syur. The name comes from the French words croque ("bite”) and monsieur ("mister").
How do you eat Croque Monsieur?
Croque Monsieur is definitely a knife and fork sandwich. As Croque Monsieur is a bit rich, depending on the size of the sandwich, 1/2 of a sandwich might be all you need for a serving. Cut in half diagonally to reveal all the inside layers.
What to serve with Croque Monsieur?
- I love to serve Croque Monsieur with a dollop of Raspberry Jam on the side. It's the perfect flavour pairing with the flavours of the sandwich and tempers the richness of the sandwich really well. Other tart jams, such as Blueberry or Lingonberry would also work nicely.
- If you'd like to add a little garnish, some fresh thyme leaves are nice.
- As Croque Monsieur is a rich sandwich, a simple salad is the nicest side, I think.
What is the difference between Croque Monsieur and Croque Madame?
When you put a fried or poached egg on top of Croque Monsieur, it becomes Croque Madame!
Making Croque Monsieur: Step-by-Step
Make the Béchamel: This will only take a few minutes and you can make it ahead and refrigerate it to use later. There is nothing tricky about making Béchamel, but the key steps are to be sure to cook the flour/butter paste well, to cook off the raw flour taste. Just keep it moving in the pan and you'll be good.
Add the hot milk slowly and gradually and whisk well until smooth. Finally, add the seasoning (nutmeg, salt and pepper).
Assemble the Sandwiches: It takes only a few minutes to assemble the sandwiches. If your Béchamel was made ahead and refrigerated, it will be stiff. Give it a good stir to loosen it a bit, but don't worry, it will melt up nicely in the oven.
Don't skimp on the Béchamel on top of the sandwiches and be sure to spread it right to the edges, to avoid the bread scorching when it goes under the broiler.
Making ahead, storing and freezing
Croque Monsieur are best enjoyed freshly baked, so for making ahead, my suggestion is to make the Béchamel ahead and refrigerate. Béchamel will keep in the fridge for 4-5 days. Doing that, the process of assembling and baking the Croque Monsieur is very quick (15 minutes, start to finish).
Leftover sandwiches should be refrigerated, where they will keep for 2-3 days. Reheat on a baking sheet in a 350F oven until warmed through (you may need to lightly cover with foil at some point, to prevent over-browning.
Freezing isn't recommended for the assembled or baked sandwiches, though you can freeze the Béchamel up to 3 months.
Béchamel (enough for 2-3 sandwiches):
- 1 1/3 cups milk, whole milk (3%) recommended
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon fine salt, reduce slightly if using salted butter
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 4 slices Brioche, Challah or Pain de Mie bread, sliced 1/2-inch thick
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 slices ham, about 1/4-1/2-inch thick
- 2/3 cup Gruyère or Comté cheese, grated
Make the Béchamel (can be done ahead):
- In a small saucepan, heat the milk over medium heat until hot, but not yet simmering at all. (Watch carefully, as milk can boil up and and over really quickly). Remove from heat and set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 - 1 1/2 minutes with a wooden spoon. Don't let the mixture brown. Slowly add the hot milk to the butter/flour mixture, whisking constantly, until smooth and thickened, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the nutmeg, salt and pepper. If not using right away, transfer to a bowl, allow to cool slightly, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Béchamel will keep in the fridge for 4-5 days.
Assemble the sandwiches:
- Preheat oven to 425F.
- Using a toaster or the oven broiler, toast the bread slices until golden. Spread 2 slices of bread with a thin layer of Dijon mustard. Top with the ham slice. Top the each ham slice with about 1/4 cup of shredded cheese.
- Tip: If you have made the Béchamel ahead and refrigerated, it will be quite a bit stiffer. Give it a good stir to loosen it up a bit, then just use it as it is, spreading it out, rather than spooning it. It will melt up just fine once it hits the oven.
- Spread the remaining two slices of bread with some of the Béchamel, then place on top of the shredded cheese, Béchamel side down. Place assembled sandwiches on a baking sheet.
- Spoon or spread a generous amount of Béchamel over-top of each of the sandwiches, spreading it around so that it covers the entire top, as any exposed bread on the top might scorch when under the broiler. (Don't skimp on the Béchamel on top. You want it to bubble up and fall over the edge a bit. Scatter the remaining shredded cheese over-top.
- Place into preheated 425F oven and bake for 4 minutes, then switch the oven to BROIL and broil about 4 minutes more, or until the top of the sandwiches are bubbly and golden (you may need to move the baking sheet up a rack position, if it doesn't seem to be browning).
- Remove from the oven. Serve warm with a dollop of raspberry jam. You can serve whole or cut in half diagonally. Depending on the size of the sandwich, 1/2 a sandwich may be a suitable serving size for many people.
Nutritional information provided for general guidance only and should not be relied upon to make personal health decisions.