I had friends coming round for brunch and had some tasty cured ham I wanted to use up. I do love ham in a sandwich but wanted to do something a bit more than sarnies for my friends.
I had white bread in the cupboard and a wedge of parmesan which I'd bought for a pasta dish earlier in the week. All I needed was some delicious Gruyere cheese and I had the makings of a yummy French classic hot sandwich - a Croque Monsieur. I'd had this dish served to me in a French bistro many years ago and absolutely loved it. It's crunchy on the outside and melting and chewy in the middle.
The name is based on the French verb 'croquer' (to crunch) and the word 'monsieur' (mister). If you top the sandwich with a fried egg it becomes a Croque Madame.
My friends hadn't heard of a Croque Monsieur before, as it isn't something you often see in cafes over here. It has to be made fresh, and it can be a bit fiddly. But I don't care, the taste is totally worth it.
8 slices of fresh, plain white bread (only white bread works for this dish)
4 generous slices of a good ham of your choice
A wedge of parmesan, freshly grated
A large pack of Gruyere cheese
1. Put some tinfoil on your grill rack to catch the melted cheese
2. Butter one side of all 8 of the bread slices.
3. Sprinkle each buttered slice generously with freshly grated Gruyere cheese, covering all the bread.
4. Put on the tinfoil on the grill tray and pop under the grill until cheese bubbles.
5. Remove from grill and add a slice of ham to each bread slice on top of the cheese.
6. Close the sandwich so the ham is between two slices of buttered, toasted cheese and bread.
7. Lightly butter the top of the sandwich then sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese.
8. Put back under the grill until parmesan cheese is toasted.
9. Turn the sandwich over and repeat the parmesan layer and grill.
You will now have what I like to think of as a 'designer' cheese and ham toastie. Some people cut the edges off to make it look even more gourmet - but I think they add extra crunch so prefer to leave them on.
Serve with a crisp rosé wine to a smiling group of hungry friends.