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This is a superb ham and cheese French bistro sandwich slathered in a delightful Bechamel-Soubise cheese sauce that's spiked with pastis, and baked to golden perfection! For a "Croque Madame" variation, serve with a fried or poached egg on top (the egg resembles a ladies hat). Serve hot, garnished with a thyme sprig and a tart little Cornichon pickle on the side, and a drizzle of my violet mustard Violet Mustard - Traditional French Moustarde Au Violette. Heavenly! Inspired by the Croque Monsieurs served at the famous Tartine's Bakery & Cafe located in San Francisco, California.
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 3 tablespoons white onions, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup hot half-and-half cream
- 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
- 1⁄4 teaspoon pepper
- 1⁄4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons pastis
- 8 ounces gruyere cheese, grated (divided use)
- 1⁄3 cup fromage blanc or 1⁄3 cup mascarpone cheese
- 1⁄4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 8 thick slices country French bread, crusts removed
- 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 6 ounces applewood-smoked ham, thinly sliced
- fresh thyme sprig, for garnish
- 4 tart little french cornichons, for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 4oo degrees F.
- To Make Bechamel Soubise Sauce --.
- In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and sweat the garlic and onions over low heat for 15 minutes, stirring often.
- Add the flour all at once, whisking with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Stir in the hot cream and cook, whisking constantly, for 5 minutes or until sauce is thickened.
- Remove from heat and stir in the salt. pepper, nutmeg, Pastis, 1/4 cup grated Gruyere, fromage blanc, and the Parmesan; set aside.
- To toast the bread, place the slices on a baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes, turn and bake for another 3 minutes, until toasted.
- To Assemble the Sandwiches --.
- Brush Dijon mustard evenly on one side of half the toasted bread slices. Add a slice of ham to each, sprinkle with half the remaining Gruyere. Top with another slice of toasted bread. Slather the tops with the cheese sauce, and sprinkle with the remaining Gruyere.
- Bake for 5 minutes at 400 degrees F. Turn on the broiler and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, until cheese topping is nicely caramelized. (You want the outside to be crusty and golden brown, and the inside soft and pudding-like).
- Serve hot, garnished with a thyme sprig and a tart little Cornichon pickle on the side. Variation: For a "Croque Madame", serve with a fried or poached egg on top (the egg resembles a ladies hat).