My Croque Monsieur Challenge

Each month this year (so far) I've set myself a food challenge. These are things I've wanted to make for a long time but have been kinda scared to try. So far I've baked a Kouign Amann and made Banh Mi. This month: Croque Monsieur.

I was fortunate to travel when I was a kid (with parents of course), and we loved Paris. I have a distinct memory of getting a square croque monsieur from a food truck parked on a Paris side street. It was fantastic. Simple, savory, cheesy. It's basically a glorified grilled cheese, but because it is imbued with Frenchness (and meat), this grilled cheese becomes magnifique.

To make croque monsieurs, I combined 2 recipes from 2 domestic goddesses: Martha Stewart and Ina Garten. Mostly I went with Martha's recipe, checking Ina's for support now and then.


The main ingredients--fresh crunchy bread, ham and cheese.


I wanted to make sure all the bread slices matched up well. I laid them out first just to check.


Next step is to butter the outside of the bread, and put cheese and ham and mustard on the inside.


Into a skillet to brown. Or if you're following Ina, you would have toasted the bread first and could skip this step.


If it doesn't have the sauce on top, it is not a croque monsieur (*cough* AHEM certain downtown Brattleboro bakery).


Then into the oven. Remove when bubbly and browned. (Too browned here? Probably, but that's typical for my oven.)


All done, halved to see inside. With spring asparagus!

These were really good. But, like my other 2 challenges so far, I was far from nailing this one. For one thing, I used Alpine Lace cheese because I was trying to save money. Next time I'm going for proper Gruyère.

Also I used Serrano ham because I had (previously frozen) extra. I'm not sure what kind of ham is best for croque monsieurs (do you know?) But it is probably not Serrano. The Serrano had a kind of... rich, fruity flavor rather than the usual salty umami that I'd expect from ham. And it looked like a thick prosciutto, not a thin ham slice. It wasn't bad, but I'd like to try again with something more "hammy." (I'm sure it is some kind of sacrilege to use Serrano ham in a croque monsieur. Spanish and FRENCH? Street snacks and TAPAS?! But that's just how I roll. Use it up!)

SO, I'll probably be trying these again sometime in the future. But at least now I know the steps involved--not that hard!

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