Welcome to this Monday. It’s already happening, another week, another to-do list, another round of appointments - don't panic.
You can do this.
Your hair looks amazing, by the way.
We need to begin this week right, so eat a proper breakfast. Yes, of course, yogurt counts, especially if you splurged on the fancy European chocolate kind - you’re totally winning.
The work day and full inbox will likely feel daunting, and you’ll be tempted to come home and crash on the couch with a bowl of leftover popcorn. But, you are not going to do that. Instead, you should call up your favorite gentleman or lady, and make a cozy, slightly-more-elegant-than-popcorn dinner. You’ll thank yourself.
I’m trying to gather up some of these weeknight dinner weapons because in 235 days I’m going to have a husband. One of those studly garbage-taker-outers that you have to feed three times a day and provide semi-frequent back rubs for - at least that’s what I’ve heard. So you see, my classic popcorn and clementine dinners simply won’t do anymore...except maybe on Sunday nights, everything is permissible on Sunday nights.
So this is why I’m learning to make fancy sandwiches that need only a pile of lightly dressed arugula and a handful of chips to become a proper dinner.
Croque Monsieur is the classic French sandwich. It is little more than a very fancy version of ham and cheese. By fancy, I mean that it has ooey, gooey (bleh, I don’t like those words… someone please, give me some new adjectives) cheese sauce poured over it.
It consists of two slices of toasted bread, a thin layer of dijon, ham, and gruyere. The finished sandwiches are then covered in a rich cheese sauce and baked until the cheese gets brown and bubbly. I love it, and it really needs no improving, but, I wanted pickles.
I really love a good sweet pickle. My dad and I are the only ones in my family that tolerate their charm, and I cannot get enough. One of my very favorite guilty pleasure foods is a good hot dog with tangy ketchup and a heaping pile of sweet pickles. Oh yes… But I digress.
So, for the love of pickles, I defied tradition and added a layer of sweet pickles. Let me tell you, that though this sandwich has always been perfect on its own, if perfection could be improved upon - this is it.
The spicy mustard plays wonderfully with the sweetness of the pickles and they add a fresh crunch to the rich, cheese-blanketed sandwich.
Husband or no husband, this is a really good Monday night dinner choice. And, if you are dining solo and do not feel like eating four sandwiches, you can still make the entire batch of cheese sauce and stow it away in the refrigerator for quick lunches or dinners.
We’ve got serious weeknight skills.
Croque Mon - Do What I Want
makes 4 / recipe adapted from Ina Garten
- 8 1/2-inch slices of good bread (I used an Italian country loaf)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk, warmed (about 60-70 degrees)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups gruyere, shredded (divided use)
- 1/2 cup finely grated parmesan + extra for sprinkling
- 16 slices deli ham
- 1 cup bread and butter pickle slices
- dijon mustard
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Place the sliced bread on a sheet pan and bake for 5 minutes. Flip each slice and then bake for an additional 2 minutes, until toasted.
Place butter in a small saucepan and melt over medium high heat. Once the butter has melted, whisk in flour. Cook, whisking often for 2 minutes.
Slowly stream in warm milk, whisking constantly, until combined. Add salt, pepper, and fresh nutmeg and cook, stirring often, until the sauce has thickened; about 3-5 minutes.
To test the consistency, dip a spoon into the sauce and run your finger down the center of the spoon. If it leaves a clean line, the sauce has thickened enough; if not, keep cooking.
Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup gruyere and parmesan. Set aside.
Set oven on the broiler setting.
Spread a thin layer of mustard on four of the toasted slices of bread. Layer each slice with pickles, four slices of ham, and a handful of the remaining gruyere. Top with a second slice of toast and place in a 9x13 baking pan. Cover each sandwich with prepared sauce and sprinkle with parmesan.
Broil for 3-5 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and slightly browned. Serve immediately. Enjoy!
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