The best croque monsieur in the world is sold in Sébastien Gaurdard’s tiny and rather delicate tea rooms in the Place des Pyramides, opposite the Louvre in Paris. It is an urbane croque monsieur you feel you could eat with white kid gloves on. This one, however, is a robust, street-fighting croque monsieur where boxing gloves, or even bare knuckles, might be more appropriate.
makes 4| prep 20 mins | cooking 20 mins
Butter, at room temperature, to spread 8 thick slices crusty bread 200g finely grated gruyère 8 slices smoked ham
250ml (1 cup) full-cream milk 30g butter 20g plain flour 2 tsp Dijon mustard Large pinch of freshly grated nutmeg 50g finely grated gruyère Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
1 Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan-forced. 2 To make the bechamel, heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat without letting it boil. Melt the butter in another small saucepan over medium heat until it begins to froth. Add the flour and whisk until smooth and the flour begins to bubble and look puffy. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the hot milk all at once and continue to stir until the sauce has thickened (this will happen quite fast), then cook, stirring, for another 5 minutes. Stir in the mustard, nutmeg and gruyère. Season with salt and pepper. Add the cayenne, if you like a little kick. 3 Butter the bread slices generously on one side. Lay half the slices, butter-side down, on a baking tray. Top with the gruyère and ham, then sandwich with the remaining bread slices, butter-side up. Bake for about 7 minutes or until the bread is golden brown. 4 Preheat the grill on high. Flip the sandwiches over and evenly spoon the bechamel over the top. Grill the sandwiches until the bechamel is lightly golden. Serve hot!