PHOTO: Kyla Zanardi
A French take on a classic ham and cheese, this once-in-a-while indulgence will instantly transport you to a French café.
4 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 slices day-old white country-style bread
2 slices ham
1 cup grated Swiss cheese
1 tbsp salted butter
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 cup 2% milk
pinch flaky sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
Melt the butter in a medium pot over medium-high heat.
Once the butter is bubbling, add the flour and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until it forms a paste (called a roux).
Bring the milk to a simmer in a small pot over medium-low heat, without letting it boil. You can also do this in the microwave in a microwave-safe bowl in 30-second increments until it reaches temperature.
Gradually add the warm milk to the flour, stirring constantly. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the mixture thickens slightly, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and stir in the salt and some pepper.
Scrape the béchamel into a clean bowl and allow it to come to room temperature.
Preheat the oven broiler to high (400˚F/200˚C). Heat a nonstick, ovenproof grill pan (preferably a cast-iron skillet with a ribbed base to make “grill” marks) over medium-high heat on the stove.
Butter each slice of bread on one side only and place two of the slices, butter side down, on the hot griddle pan.
Use a spoon to spread about 1 tablespoon of béchamel onto each slice of bread in the griddle
Top the béchamel with a slice of ham and one-quarter of the grated cheese.
Spread about 1 tablespoon of béchamel onto each of the other slices of bread and place them, butter side up, over the ham and cheese.
Cook for 2 minutes, or until the bottom of the sandwiches are golden.
Use a large flat spatula to carefully flip the Gently press the sandwiches down with the spatula.
Cook for a further 2 minutes, or until the cheese inside has melted and the bottom of the sandwiches are golden.golden brown and bubbly.
Remove the pan from the heat and spread 2 tablespoons of béchamel on top of each sandwich. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on the béchamel, making sure to cover the tops of the sandwiches evenly.
Transfer to the oven and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the cheese is golden brown and bubbly.
“Croquer” means to crunch or munch, and refers to the sound you will make when biting into the crunchy toasted bread.
Top your sandwich with a fried egg to make a Croque-Madame!
Recipe by Mardi Michels and excerpted from In the French Kitchen with Kids: Easy, Everyday Dishes for the Whole Family to Make and Enjoy, published by Appetite by Random House. Photo by Kyla Zanardi.
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