Croque Monsieur

Croque Monsieur | Pinky's Pantry
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.

CROQUE MONSIEUR
(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)
  1. Slice enough Gruyere to make 6 sandwiches (6 or 7 ozs.) and grate the rest to use for topping. Set cheese aside.
  2. Make béchamel sauce by melting 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat in a small saucepan.
  3. Add flour, whisking until well combined.
  4. Gradually whisk in milk, parmesan cheese, and nutmeg.
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Cook until sauce thickens, whisking constantly, about 2 minutes.
  7. Set béchamel aside and preheat broiler to high. You’ll broil the sandwiches later.
  8. Butter one side of all 12 slices of bread.
  9. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat on the stove.
  10. Place 3 of the bread slices, butter side down, in the skillet.
  11. Brush some mustard on top of each slice of bread in the skillet.
  12. Top each with a slice of ham and a slice of Gruyère.
  13. Cover sandwiches with 3 slices of bread, butter side up.
  14. Cook until deep golden brown, then carefully flip over and cook other side.
  15. Transfer to a baking sheet and repeat with remaining bread.
  16. Spoon béchamel sauce over each sandwich.
  17. Sprinkle a little grated Gruyère over béchamel.
  18. Place under broiler until cheese is melted and light brown.
  19. Serve hot.
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French Coconut Pie

French Coconut Pie | Pinky's Pantry
Unlike its name, French Coconut Pie did not originate in France but was actually invented in America. Wherever it originated from, it’s one of the easiest pies you’ll ever make and tastes amazing to boot! You can make your own pie crust if you want to. I have a great recipe for homemade pie crust here. Or you could just purchase a ready-made pie shell from the grocery and save yourself some work. Either way, this pie turns out delicious! It’s literally a pie to die for.

FRENCH COCONUT PIE

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
  • cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 deep-dish 9-inch pie shell, purchased or homemade
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Bake pie crust for 18-25 minutes until lightly golden on the edges.
  3. Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl until well combined.
  4. Pour filling into pre-baked pie crust. Crust doesn’t have to be cool for this step.
  5. Bake 45-55 minutes or until lightly browned and custard is set.
  6. Transfer pie to a wire rack to cool completely, at least 1 hour, before serving.

Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee

Creme Brulee | Pinky's Pantry
So I was lying in bed watching TV with my Old Goat Honey dozing next to me when a slight movement off the side of my eye caught my attention. Looking over, I gasped! A huge, horrible, monstrous, leggy, brown bug was crawling up the wall towards the ceiling! Anyone who knows me knows I have a deep-seated, inexplicable fear of creepy crawlies. Anything with more than four legs strikes the fear of God into my quivering heart. This thing had like a million legs! I kid you not! With a shriek, I recognized it as a house centipede.

I shook my Old Goat and in a nervous whisper said that there was a gigantic monster house centipede crawling up the wall and I needed him to take it away….. immediately! In typical heroic fashion, my knight in shining armor drowsily said, “Just leave it alone. They eat spiders.” Gah! Really? Is there anything more gag-inducing than the thought of an ugly leggy bug happily munching on another ugly leggy bug? Unable to tear my eyes away from the terrifying sight of the beast crawling up the wall, I watched in helpless fascination as he reached the part where the wall meets the ceiling and stopped. I swear he stood there looking right at me as if trying to decide whether I would make a tasty meal or not. Surely he wouldn’t walk across the ceiling towards me! He would be upside down if he did! How would he stay up there? Do they have like little dots of double-sided sticky tape at the ends of their legs? No….. he couldn’t walk upside down across the ceiling. He wouldn’t. He……… Ahhhhhhhhhh!

To my absolute horror, he started across the ceiling towards our bed! My mind filled with visions of him getting right above our bed, imagining how suddenly the double-sided sticky tape at the ends of his legs would lose its stickiness and he would drop right onto me in a full-on, ravenous attack. I quickly shook Old Goat again and in a panic-stricken voice yelled, “He’s coming this way! You’ve got to get him before he gets us!” to which my fearless knight sleepily responded, “Have No. 1 do it.”  O_O

By this time, I had already leaped out of our bed and made it across to the safety of the other side of the room. I watched from the doorway mesmerized as it crawled right above Old Goat, then suddenly veered towards the center of the ceiling where it crawled up onto the base of the ceiling fan. My powers of deduction obviously impaired by this point, I hit on the idea that if I turned on the fan, those big wooden blades would somehow chop up that little body with the million little legs into tiny flecks of dust that would poof away into nothingness. So I hit the ON button and to my utter shock, the fan sucked him right into its body! I always knew fans blew air out front. Never thought of them sucking air in on the back side but that’s just what this one did. Now what? I stood there waiting indecisively, but he never dragged himself out of the swiftly-whirring fan.

So, brave soul that I am, I hightailed it downstairs to the kitchen as fast as my shaky legs could take me, and feeling in dire need of some comfort, debated on whether to pour myself a stiff drink or make some Crème Brûlée for dessert tonight. The Crème Brûlée won.

VANILLA BEAN CRÈME BRÛLÉE

  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 8 large egg yolks
  • turbinado sugar for caramelizing
  1. Preheat oven to 300ºF. Place 8 small ramekins or custard cups in a roasting pan and set aside until ready to use.
  2. In a saucepan, stir together the cream, sugar, and salt.
  3. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with the back of a paring knife.
  4. Stir the seeds into the cream and drop the vanilla bean halves in.
  5. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.
  6. Turn off the heat, cover, and let stand for 20 minutes.
  7. In a large glass measuring cup, whisk the egg yolks lightly just to break them up.
  8. Remove and discard the vanilla bean halves.
  9. Slowly pour the warm cream into the egg yolks, whisking constantly.
  10. Fill each ramekin with the custard mixture.
  11. Carefully place the roasting pan with the filled ramekins into the oven.
  12. Slowly pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come at least halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
  13. Bake until the custards are just set but still a little jiggly, about 30-35 minutes.
  14. Remove custards from the water bath and place on a wire rack to cool to room temperature.
  15. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap directly onto the surface of each custard to prevent them from forming a skin.
  16. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.
  17. Just before serving, preheat your broiler.
  18. Sprinkle 1-2 teaspoons of turbinado sugar evenly in a thin layer over the top of each custard.
  19. Place in broiler, about 3 inches away from the heat source, until the sugar melts and caramelizes. You may have to rotate your pan so it caramelizes evenly. Watch carefully and don’t let the sugar burn. If you have a kitchen torch, use it! It’s much easier to control the caramelization with a torch.
  20. Set the custards aside to let the caramel cool and harden.

NOTE:  If you can’t find vanilla beans, you can substitute 1 tsp. of pure vanilla extract.