Friday, October 2, 2009

Croque Monsieur & Croque Provencal

Jim is affectionately referring to this week as his European Death March. After two days in Paris, he'll end up traveling every night and working in four cities in four days. Ugh. Last time he was out of town for a week, the kids and I had a "Seafood Extravaganza" as that does not rank high on Jim's list of food prefences. I thought about doing S.E. Part II, as we didn't get around to linguini vongole or cioppino last month. But instead, decided that this time the kids and I would follow his travels through Western Europe via the culinary spectrum.

Paris, a city I've never visited as a tourist (and have avoided international routing through CDG) is almost too easy a location to begin with. So many choices for great French food. How to pick? Two main factors drove Saturday night's selection: 1) Charlotte attended a birthday party that wouldn't get us home until 4:00 and 2) leftover baby swiss cheese and applewood smoked ham from making chicken cordon bleu earlier this week. I have no idea why chicken cordon bleu has become my 'go to' meal for friends with new babies. I think the cheesiness and the wine, & just being happy to eat a meal that one wouldn't have time to prepare with a new infant around.

A quick dinner, that uses ham and cheese... Croque Monsiuer! Which is really just a hot ham and cheese sandwich. Doesn't get much easier than that. And, Croque Provencal has some sliced tomatoes, which, surprisingly takes the flavor combination to an entirely different level. The kids and I all vastly preferred this version.
Everyone has their own way of making grilled cheese. Here are three things I rely on to make mine awesome.
  1. Butter the bread, rather than putting butter in the pan itself.
  2. Use a big pan to make all of the sandwiches at once. I LOVE my big Calphalon griddle Jim bought for me about five years ago. I really have no idea how I made it so long without it.
  3. Dome it, baby.
What? Dome what?? A while back I saw an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay and the 'masters' making Philly cheese steaks said the only way to do it right was to put one of those ubiquitous metal bowls from commercial kitchens on top of the sandwich after the cheese was added. This guaranteed awesome melting every time. In our house, I improvise with something to serve as a lid, but the result is the same. Cheesey! (Ironically, these pictures show no oozing cheese because it took far too long to round up the kids for dinner before they were cut & ready for pictures!)

Croque Monsieur (& Croque Provencal)
Too basic to site a source

6 slices whole wheat bread
6 slices baby swiss cheese
6 slices your favorite ham
sliced Campari tomatoes
spreadable butter

Spread butter on three slices of bread and place on the griddle. Layer on a slice of cheese, two slices of ham, then tomato (if making Croque Provencal, which we highly recommend) and another slice of cheese. Put medium heat under the griddle and prepare the tops by buttering the remaining three pieces of bread and capping off the sandwiches. When bottoms are grilled golden brown, turn them over. Put a dome on top (skillet lids, metal bowl, whatever works to keep the heat in) until sandwich bottoms are golden brown and cheese is melted.

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