Aussitôt que le beau temps commence, I am viciously craving a good croque monsieur. Perhaps because the dish never fails to remind me of lazy weekend afternoons spend on the patio at The Only, getting sun and beer drunk, tree spooge in my hair and eye lobes, to reconnect with folks I barely saw through my winter hermitage habit and finally ordering a good, old croque monsieur because, even though I said I would go home for supper, it’s now half nine and, in spite of my best efforts, I simply cannot subsist on beer and good company.
Before I decided to write this post, a thing I was not going to do because my noggin was all “pfffft…errybody knows what a damned croque monsieur is!” I completely forgot that there are so many takes on the classic. To my mind, a croque monsieur is a ham and cheese on French toast sandwich, a croque madame is the same thing with a fried egg on top and a croque mademoiselle is the same thing with veg in place of meat.
Nevermind that there’s a whole big bistro culture that says otherwise…and that it includes a béchamel…and very flat ham…and is served on floofy, brioche-type bread. Just nevermind all of that…but actually do mind it because other versions are sublime, but I’m not going to tell you how to make those other versions. I’m going to tell you how to make my version which is a riff on The Only’s version and is most certainly toasts that have been Frenchèd with ham and cheese, accompanied by a delicious pineapple pico de gallo that is as much a salad as it is a condiment because ham + cheese + pineapple = heaven.
These recipes are for four very healthy servings.
What you need for the pico:
Make this a good hour or two in advance to let the flavours marry.
- 1/2 pineapple (about a cup and a half) peeled and chopped
- 1 small red onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
- 1 jalepeno, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup of fresh cilantro, finely chopped (if you’re one of those weirdos who doesn’t like cilantro, you can ommit it altogether or consider replacing it with parsley, basil, or dill…but I can’t be your friend)
- Juice of one lime
- Pinch of salt
What you do for the pico:
- Toss all of the ingredients into a large bowl and stir to combine.
- Refrigerate until ready to use.
What you need for the croque monsieur:
- 8 pieces of good bread – I made challah for this one, but try caraway rye (trust me, I’m a fatty)
- 6 eggs
- 1/2 cup of milk
- 2 tsp herbes de provence
- Pinch of nutmeg
- Salt & pepper
- 500 gr of roasted, smoked ham, thinly sliced or shredded
- 1 cup grated Gruyère, Swiss or Emmental cheese
- Butter to lube the pan
What you do for the croque monsieur:
- Heat a skillet over medium heat.
- In a shallow bowl (pie dishes work perfectly for this), whisk the eggs together until combined.
- Add the eggs, milk, herbs, nutmeg, salt and pepper and whisk until combined.
- Grease the pan with butter.
- Two pieces at a time, dredge the bread in the egg mixture on each side and transfer to the heated and greased pan.
- Cook approximately five minutes, until golden brown and flip.
- To the cooked side of one slice of bread, add some cheese and ham. Top with the other slice, cooked side facing the ham.
- Cover and cook for about five minutes, until golden brown.
- Flip the whole sandwich, cover and cook another five-ish minutes, until golden brown.
- Hold finished sandwiches on a baking sheet with a baking rack over it in a 200 degree oven until all of the sandwiches are done.
- Cut in half and serve with a heaping helping of the pineapple pico.