February 13, 2011
The very first breakfast special I ever made was the croque monsieur, or a glorified ham and cheese sandwich. The literal French translation means "crunch mister", which makes no sense. However, there is a variation on the dish called croque madame, which, as you might guess, means "crunch missus". It is the monsieur version of the sandwich with the addition of an egg on top. (Get it? Females have eggs!)
Despite the French and their weird naming of things, I think the real travesty is how Americans butcher the pronunciation to the point where the correct pronunciation in America is now the butchered version. Case in point: croque monsieur is supposed to be pronounced "croque missyear", but instead it's pronounced "croak monsur". Le sigh.
The preparation for this dish was rather involved, as it required that I make bechamel sauce, which first involves making roux from flour and clarified butter. So I had to melt butter down and skim the milk solids off the surface. Once the roux was made I added scalded milk to it, and then simmered the sauce with an onion (with a bay leaf pinned to it by some cloves), some nutmeg and salt and pepper. After simmering for about an hour the mixture was strained, then kept warm until use.
For the actual sandwiches I toasted some bread (with the crusts cut off), brushed the bottom slices with dijon mustard and piled on thinly-sliced ham and swiss cheese, then added the top slice, drenched the tops with the bechamel sauce, then piled more swiss (and parmesan) on top of that.
The sandwiches were baked until bubbly, then put in the broiler to get the slightly brown and crispy-spotted crust.
For garnish, Chef told me to use cantaloupe and strawberries. The cantaloupes were fanned - which is a common garnish technique. Basically you take a piece of fruit or vegetable (in this case, a wedge of cantaloupe), and cut it into thin not-sliced-through-all-the-way slices. Then you lay the piece on its side and push the slices successively across so they fan out. Yay aesthetics!