I admit it. I am a cookbook addict. There.. I said it. Although I have over 400 treasured cookbooks lining the shelves of my office, I continue to buy more. I just love them. Every year brings more creative publications by a variety of chefs, restaurant owners and most recently… very talented food bloggers. Although the internet has thousands of fantastic cooking websites and blogs that I frequent almost daily… they will never replace my wonderful cookbooks.
Recently, I stumbled across Nancy Silverton’s Sandwich Book. It’s a great collection of gourmet sandwiches made at her Campanile restaurant using bread from her famous La Brea Bakery. Now really… how could I pass up buying her book? I couldn’t. In the book is a wonderful recipe for both Croque Monsieur and it’s counterpart, Croque Madame. These are two wonderful traditional French grilled cheese sandwiches that can put our American grilled cheese to shame. Nancy takes this recipe to another level by drizzling a cheesy Mornay sauce over the sandwiches before serving. It’s pure heaven. I decided to adapt it a little further by using Croissants instead of sliced bread. It really doesn’t matter what bread you use.. .these sandwiches are incredible. Just plan a 5 mile run later that day because this isn’t exactly a “light lunch!”
Mornay Sauce Ingredients
- 3 TBSP butter
- 1/4 cup finely chopped sweet onion
- pinch of kosher or sea salt
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 TBSP all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup finely grated gruyere cheese
- 1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1 large egg yolk
- 6-8 TBSP unsalted butter
- 8 slices fresh country-style white bread, sourdough or croissants cut in half
- 1 lb gruyere cheese, sliced 1/16 inch thick
- 12 ounces thinly sliced good quality deli ham
- diced fresh dill (*optional)
Making the sauce…
Melt unsalted butter in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan over medium heat. Add diced onions and salt. Saute’ for a few minutes until onion is just tender and translucent. Add the flour and stir for 3 minutes. Be careful not to brown flour. Gradually whisk in the milk and add the bay leaf. Stir occasionally and simmer until sauce thickens. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and cook to luke warm (about 25-30 minutes.) Place back on low heat and gradually add cheeses and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat. Lightly beat the egg yolk in a small bowl. Whisk 1 TBSP of Mornay sauce into egg. Fold egg mixture into remaining Mornay sauce. Cover to keep warm.
Making the sandwiches…
Spread 1/2 TBSP of butter on one side of each slice of bread. If using croissants you don’t need as much butter as they already have a lot of butter in them. Place bread slices on a cutting board, buttered side down. Divide half the cheese among the bread slices. Place ham slices on top of cheese, dividing evenly. Top sandwiches with remaining 4 bread slices, buttered side up.
Heat griddle or cast iron skillet over medium heat. If using a griddle, cook sandwiches until bottom is golden brown and cheese is melted (about 3 minutes per side.) If using a cast iron skillet, cook sandwiches until golden brown. Turn sandwiches over and place skillet in 400 degree oven until golden brown on bottom and cheese is melted. (*Note – if using croissants, watch them carefully as they burn easily.)
Place sandwiches on a baking sheet and sppon 1/4 cup of the Mornay sauce over each sandwich. Broil until sauce is pale golden and bubbly (about 2-3 minutes.) Sprinkle with fresh dill. Serve immediately!
Recipe adapted from Nancy Silverton’s Sandwich Book