My two versions of this classic French café/bistro sandwich - oven baked for large quantities and ease.......or, the traditional frying pan/skillet method! You can always rely upon the French to add a certain "je ne sais quoi" to even the simplest food ...including the humble cheese and ham sandwich. The croque-monsieur (which becomes a croque-madame if you top it with a fried egg) is a great favourite in French cafés & bistros, and there are as many methods of crafting it as there are cafés! This one works for me. But, please be warned ... it's not for calorie-counters, the Cholesterol Police or those of a nervous disposition!!
- Spread the bread with some of the softened butter, make 4 sandwiches, each with one slice of ham and one slice of cheese. Press them firmly together.
- Beat the eggs with the water, add the salt and pepper to taste, and dip the sandwiches into the egg mixture, coating all sides well.
- Heat the rest of the butter in a heavy- bottomed frying pan/skillet, when it has melted and is very hot - but not brown, fry the sandwiches for about 5 - 8 minutes, turning once.
- Serve immediately.
- If you prefer, although it is not traditional, you may place the croque-monsieur into a very well-buttered baking pan and bake in a moderately hot oven - 175°C/350°F - turning once, for about 10 to 15 minutes. It is easier to prepare a larger number this way and keep them warm until you are ready to serve them.