Croque Monsieur 

IMG_3955
Last night I attempted one of my French bistro sandwiches, the simply elegant Croque Monsieur. It’s a fancy sounding name for an elevated ham and cheese sandwich, but once you bite into one, you have to call it by name.

  
Assembled open faced, finished in the oven, including the broiler should you dare.

I cannot recommend exact quantities on this, as I feel you just assemble and make it look pretty. The quick bechamel I made was probably enough for two sandwiches, so I will go into a bit more detail with the sauce.

For the sandwich, I used two medium-thick slices of semolina bread, but any heart sliced bread or baguette will do – Italian, French, you could even go rye, though I prefer a milder tasting bread. I spread a thin layer of super grainy mustard and topped with ham. I then preheated my oven to 400 degrees and got started on the bechamel.

  
This was not a true bechamel. Instead a made a roux by melting two tablespoons butter and whisked in two tablespoons of flour. When the roux was cooked to a light blond color I added more grain mustard, a pinch of garlic powder (I would have preferred onion powder but I was out), a few dashes of nutmeg, salt and pepper. While whisking over low heat, I added 2/3 cup milk, added slightly more, thinning the sauce a bit more. You want the consistency to fall somewhere between mayo and gravy – thinner than mayo, but not so thin that it drips everywhere. I then added about two heaping tablespoons of Parmesan cheese and a teaspoon of Colman’s mustard powder.

  
I removed the sauce from heat and continued to assemble the sandwich. I spread about half the sauce I made over the ham on each slice.

  
I topped the sauce with Swiss cheese (you may also use Gruyere), and placed my sandwich in the oven.

  
I baked it for about 5 minutes, then switched on the broiler to melt the cheese even more for another two minutes. The result? Heaven.

  

Advertisements

Late Night Snack – Pretzels and Cheese Sauce

AC_PANTRYPROJECTIMG_3831

While I work on my on-hand food inventory and cost, I’m also doing the fun part of this project, which is getting creative with what I have to make some yummy food!

The latest experiment was making Auntie Anne’s Pretzels from a kit I bought at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. For years, an Auntie Anne’s pretzel has been my favorite mall fare – a quick snack to refuel on shopping excursions. Plus with cheese being my favorite food, I would also get a packet of cheese sauce to go with the pretzel. Granted, that cheese sauce was more of a chemically processed cheese food that could survive nuclear holocaust and will probably be sitting in my system years after I am dead, but it really was a satisfying snack.

On my own, I make a good cheese sauce because I love Bechamel, cheese, mac and cheese, etc. Depending on my needs I am not as diligent in the classic mother sauce preparation as I was in my youth. I still love the whole pomp and circumstance of an onion cloute and straining the milk mixture before blending it with the roux. But tonight was about snack time and pantry depletion, so shortcuts happened and the results (in my opinion) were still quite scrumptious.

I followed the instructions that came with the baking mix. It was pretty easy to follow, but the process was definitely time consuming, as is any sort of bread baking. From when I started to when I was snacking was probably about an hour and a half to two hours, and it yields a hefty number of pretzels. Much of that time is active time, too. Other than the half hour you allow the dough to rest so the yeast can do its thing, you are working a lot and quickly. I made the mistake of wanting to make my cheese sauce while the pretzels were baking, but the baking time was short and active, and I do not have the counter space to work around that.

Overall lesson learned – making the pretzels at home was fun and cost saving, but DEFINITELY not convenient and time saving.

Here’s my adventure, followed by the cheese sauce recipe

CHEESE SAUCE

3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups nonfat milk (can use any milk, nonfat is what I had on hand), ideally warmed to room temperature
3 cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
dash each of nutmeg, white pepper, onion powder, Worchestershire sauce
1 teaspoon maple sugar (any natural sweetener works, again, what I had on hand and I love maple)
1 cup shredded cheese (I used Clothbound Cheddar and Landaff that were going to go bad if I didn’t use them)

  1. Over low heat, whisk the flour and butter together, cooking about 5 minutes until roux is blonde in color – do not overcook
  2. Slowly whisk in milk, continue to cook over low flame, whisking constantly. Mixture will thicken within a couple of minutes
  3. Add seasonings, cook about three more minutes to incorporate flavor. The sugar is used to balance out the saltiness of the cheeses
  4. Whisk in cheese and continue to stir until fully melted and incorporated. Sauce should be smooth and creamy, not stringy
  5. Serve immediately, but be sure to pick out the cloves so not to choke or get an intense hit of spice. Sauce can be cooled and reheated, but best to reheat over slow heat and mix in extra milk to prevent curdling
  6. Recipe yields about 2 cups of sauce, about 4 servings

RECIPE COST (for me based off my pantry items):
$9.85 for 10 pretzel servings and 4 sauce servings
$8, pretzel mix
$.40, butter
$.75, seasonings, sugar, flour
$.70, milk
$0, cheese (was from a gift basket)