What is the croque? Our secrets to creating a killer croque monsieur!
You’ve got to give it to the French, they can make even a humble ham and cheese toasted sandwich something truly exceptional. We relish the chance each year to get out our croque recipe for our annual croque monsieur day, then to revel in all its oozy, king of toasted sandwiches-ness.
Like all good food legends, the history of the croque monsieur is one of mistaken discovery. As legend has it, a group of French workmen placed their lunch next to a radiator while they were working. When it came time to eat, their ham and cheese sandwiches had melted against the heat and the world’s most famous ham and cheese toasty was born. But, unlike your average cheese and ham toasty – which is squashed under a sandwich press, the classic croquet is baked, and with ham and cheese comes the addition of velvety béchamel sauce, which oozes out all over the place and makes an utterly mind-blowing sandwich!
There are four things I think are essential to a fantastique croque:
- Pick the right bread
You want to get something that will toast up nicely but not create an impenetrable crust. We love Wild Wheat classic white sourdough.
One of the secrets to a good croque is the toasting. Make sure you cut the bread into slices and toast it first, ever so lightly, on both sides, so it holds its own when filled and is all crunchy on the outside and gooey on the inside.
- Balance the ideal bread to filling ratio
It’s important that the bread doesn’t overwhelm the filling. So keep your slices just under a centimetre thick. Any thicker and you’re going to just have a big bready mess and the ham and cheese will be lost within it. Equally, you don’t want to overdo it on the cheese and béchamel front, as it’s very rich in its own right and so have a bit of restraint.
It’s important the amount of bread doesn’t overshadow the ham and cheese inside but gives a great balance to the richness of the filling.
- A delicate crunch that quickly gives way to a deliciously tender filling
If you get the bread and toasting right, then that crunch will give way to an amazing gooey centre. Make sure you pick a good quality ham with some thickness to it; we recommend going for a champagne-type ham, like the Freedom Farms manuka honey smoked ham. The same goes for your cheese – either a Gruyere or Emmental. This will give you a silky melt that’s full of flavour. Then, the final signature ingredient that elevates the croque beyond your average toasted sarnie… béchamel sauce. The béchamel adds a silky, creamy layer next to the stretchy melted cheese.
- Melty, gooey, oozy goodness!
You’ll know if you’ve succeeded in your quest if the end result is crunchy on the outside and a melty, gooey bundle of absolute deliciousness on the inside. Voilà!