by Chef Lippe
A Croque Monsieur is a hot sandwich made with ham and cheese. The dish originated and is extremely popular in French cafés and bars as a quick snack. The name is based on the verb croquer ("to bite, to crunch") and the word monsieur ("mister").
The origin of the sandwich is attributed to a Parisian brasserie on Boulevard des Capucines. The story goes that having run out of baguettes for the sandwich of the day, the chef took a loaf of “pain de mie” a type of brioche loaf, sliced it, placed ham and cheese between the slices, and baked it to crispiness. It is also said that the name came from a casual comment from the brasserie’s chef about the origins of the ham in the sandwich. When asked by a customer about the meat, the chef pointed at a patron sipping his coffee, likely his neighborhood butcher, and replied “C’est la viande de monsieur (It’s that guy’s meat).” Thus Croque Monsieur was born.
The sandwich's first recorded appearance on a Paris café menu was in 1910. Its earliest mention in literature appears to be in volume two of Proust's "In Search of Lost Time" (À la recherche du temps perdu) in 1918.
Variations of the original have since then appeared in various regions of France. Croque Provençal includes slices of fresh tomato, Croque Poulet replaces the ham with grilled chicken, this probably originating in Savoy using the local “Bresse Poulet”. Croque Madame, another very popular variation, comes with a fried egg on top of the sandwich, which can be traced to the regional Croque-à-Cheval in Normandy meaning “Croque on horseback”.
Croque Auvergnat is made using bleu d’Auvergne cheese, Croque Gagnet made with Gouda cheese and andouille sausage, Croque Tartiflette that includes slices of potatoes and Reblochon cheese, and even some international-themed variations like Croque Norvegien that uses smoked salmon in place of ham, Croque Bolognese (also commonly called the Croque Boum-Boum) made with Bolognese sauce and most recently Croque Señor that includes salsa and Croque Hawaiian that includes a slice of grilled pineapple.
Croque Monsieur frequently comes smothered in Béchamel sauce and topped with Herbes de Provence. A Croque Monsieur that has been dipped in egg batter is called a Monte Cristo.
Making a traditional Croque Monsieur.
- Using an oven, a toaster, a panini grill, or a frying pan, toast two slices of sandwich bread with butter on both sides until crisp but not burnt.
- Place two slices of cooked ham and a handful of grated Gruyere, Raclette, or Emmenthaler on top of the ham.
- On the inside top slice of the sandwich, spread Béchamel sauce mixed with a little Dijon mustard.
- Close the sandwich.
- Drop a handful of grated cheese on top of it.
- Sprinkle Herbes de Provence on top of the grated cheese.
- Take to the oven broiler until cheese is molten and covering the whole sandwich.