I found out that today is National Sandwich Day. Who knew we had a day dedicated to sandwiches? I love sandwiches. They’re the easiest thing to pack for lunch, they’re adorable cut into dainty little shapes for tea, and our family road trips just wouldn’t be the same without a cooler of sandwiches and drinks in the trunk of the car.
It’s commonly believed that the sandwich was the invention of John Montagu who was the 4th Earl of Sandwich in England. I can’t vouch for the truth of that, but the story goes that Lord Sandwich was a notorious gambler. They say he spent long hours at the gaming tables and rather than get up to eat, he would ask the servants to bring him some sliced meat between two pieces of bread so he could hold the food in one hand and keep his cards in the other. His friends embraced the custom and when they got hungry, they would ask for “the same as Sandwich” and that’s how the sandwich got its auspicious beginnings.
Anyway, in deference to National Sandwich Day, I decided to make Croque Monsieur for dinner tonight. Croque Monsieur is typical French bistro fare. Fancy as its name is, it’s basically just a grilled ham and cheese sandwich topped with béchamel sauce and more cheese. It’s delicious served all hot and melty with a glass of wine or an ice cold beer. If you top a Croque Monsieur with a fried egg, you’ll have what’s called a Croque Madame. But that’s for another post.
(Makes 6 sandwiches)
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- 2 Tbsp. flour
- 1 cup whole milk
- ¼ cup grated fresh parmesan cheese
- pinch of ground nutmeg
- salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste
- 12 slices firm white sandwich bread
- room temperature butter for spreading on the bread slices
- 1 jar dijon mustard
- 6 ozs. thinly sliced Black Forest ham or Virginia ham
- 8-10 ozs. Gruyère cheese (can substitute Emmental, Comté, or Swiss cheese)
- Slice enough Gruyere to make 6 sandwiches (6 or 7 ozs.) and grate the rest to use for topping. Set cheese aside.
- Make béchamel sauce by melting 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat in a small saucepan.
- Add flour, whisking until well combined.
- Gradually whisk in milk, parmesan cheese, and nutmeg.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Cook until sauce thickens, whisking constantly, about 2 minutes.
- Set béchamel aside and preheat broiler to high. You’ll broil the sandwiches later.
- Butter one side of all 12 slices of bread.
- Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat on the stove.
- Place 3 of the bread slices, butter side down, in the skillet.
- Brush some mustard on top of each slice of bread in the skillet.
- Top each with a slice of ham and a slice of Gruyère.
- Cover sandwiches with 3 slices of bread, butter side up.
- Cook until deep golden brown, then carefully flip over and cook other side.
- Transfer to a baking sheet and repeat with remaining bread.
- Spoon béchamel sauce over each sandwich.
- Sprinkle a little grated Gruyère over béchamel.
- Place under broiler until cheese is melted and light brown.
- Serve hot.