The simplest dishes are often the most important ones– both for cooks and diners. The Croque Monsieur is the sum of simple parts: bread, ham, cheese and béchamel. They come together to make the ultimate ham and cheese sandwich. When it’s done right, the saltiness from the cheese, the smokiness from the ham and the crunch of toasted bread define good eating. It’s not hard to make. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t practice.
- 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoon flour
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
- 1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 pinch kosher salt
- 1 pinch white pepper
- 8 slice French bread
- 8 slice ham (thinly sliced)
- 3 ounce grated Jarlsberg cheese (or other Swiss style cheese such as Gruyère)
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Set the oven rack to the top position. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan set over medium-low heat. Once the butter begins to get foamy whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly until smooth, about 1 minute. Drizzle in the milk, whisking constantly, until the mixture is fully incorporated. Cook, whisking often, until the mixture is thickened and just becoming elastic, about 3 minutes. Add the mustard and nutmeg and cook, whisking constantly, about 1 more minute. Remove from heat and season with salt and white pepper; set aside.
Spread one side of all 8 slices of bread with a generous amount of béchamel. Be sure and cover the bread all the way to the edges. Place four slices of bread onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Lay two slices ham onto each of the four slices of bread, tucking and folding to assure that there is not very much overhang. Divide about half of the cheese evenly between all four ham-covered slices. Top these, sandwich-style, with the remaining slices of béchamel-topped bread, béchamel side facing up. Sprinkle remaining cheese and fresh thyme leaves evenly across each sandwich.
Bake in the heated oven until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Slice and serve warm.