A good toasted ham and cheese sandwich is infinitely satisfying. But the croque monsieur – ‘crispy mister’ – is a toasted ham and cheese sandwich with a twist that elevates it to another level: a layer of oozing, creamy béchamel sauce. This week at Superette we are bringing the city of light into our own kitchen, and making the Croque Monsieur from Lunch In Paris.
- 8 slices sourdough bread (see note), about 1.5cm thick
- 40g butter, softened
- 3 tablespoons dijon mustard
- 200g good-quality sliced leg ham
- 60g grated gruyere
- 2 handfuls of picked watercress or baby rocket (arugula) leaves, to serve (optional)
- 15g butter
- 1 tablespoon plain (all-purpose) flour
- 125ml full-cream (whole) milk
- 40g grated gruyere
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
- Sea salt flakes
- Freshly ground white pepper
To make the béchamel sauce, melt the butter in a small heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and stir to make a smooth paste. Cook, stirring for 1 minute, or until bubbling and white, then gradually whisk in the milk until smooth. Simmer for a further 1-2 minutes, until thick.
Remove from the head and stir in the cheese until melted. Add the parsley, stir and season lightly with sea salt and white pepper. Press a piece of baking paper over the surface of the sauce to stop a skin forming, then set aside.
Generously spread one side of each slice of bread with the butter, spread the other side with the mustard. Place four of the slices in a large heavy-based frying pan, buttered side down, and top with the ham. Carefully spread the béchamel sauce over the ham, then sprinkle with the gruyere. Finish with the remaining bread, buttered side facing up.
Place the pan over medium-low heat and cook the sandwiches, returning occasionally for about 15 minutes, or until the bread is deep-golden and very crispy, and the cheese inside has melted.