Behold this quintessential French-bistro classic – the Croque Monsieur. This iconic French sandwich is filled with Paris ham and French hard mountain cheese, grilled to perfection, then covered with a creamy Béchamel sauce and finished under the broiler. It’s cheesy, gooey, chewy with crisp edges… in essence, it’s irresistible. This recipe is a breeze to recreate at home and one that will please the whole family, guaranteed!
Just like a grilled cheese, assembling a Croque Monsieur is nothing complicated. Yet, this isn’t your typical grilled cheese. What is really important here is to choose each component of your Croque Monsieur wisely. So, here are my recommendations for building a great and authentic tasting French Croque-Monsieur.
What bread works best for a Croque-Monsieur?
A white Classic Pain de Mie (or called Pullman Bread in North America) is best and the most traditional choice for a Croque Monsieur. The square shape of pain de mie slices is ideal, and the tight crumb of this soft bread is perfect to hold the melty cheese without it leaking out onto the bottom of your pan.
Sometimes, I also like to opt for a French loaf (as pictured here). When picking the loaf, I still make sure the crumb is tight and the crust not too crusty.
Rustic breads like sourdough boules or grainy loaves aren’t recommended here. They often have crumbs with bigger holes that will let cheese spill out and burn onto the pan. Their crust is also too crunchy and becomes even harder to bite into once toasted.
Which ham to choose?
In France, “Jambon de Paris” is used for this recipe. Jambon de Paris is a lean, unsmoked, mild-flavoured ham that is sold cooked, sliced and ready-to-eat in every grocery store and butcher shop in France. In North America, this style in less common but can often be found at the deli-counter. Ask for thin (not shaved) slices of “Paris Ham” from your butcher/deli grocer.
Which cheese to choose?
Hard French mountain cheeses, such as Gruyère, Comté or Emmental are traditionally used for a Croque Monsieur. They are flavorful yet not too strong, hold delicious nutty aromas and melt very well. They are very common cheeses to find in France and are also affordable. In North America, they are slightly more expensive but worth it if you ask me, to create an authentic tasting Croque Monsieur.
The Sauce : Béchamel or Mornay ?
There are two schools when it comes to the sauce for a Croque-Monsieur. Traditionalists usually opt for the classic Béchamel sauce, made from flour, butter, milk and a pinch of nutmeg. Béchamel is one of the 5 French Mother sauces, and great recipe to have in your French repertoire. This sauce is creamy, delicious and the subtle hints of nutmeg pairs nicely with the ham.
Some others go for a Mornay Sauce, which is simply a Béchamel sauce with grated cheese folded in it right at the end. It is very similar to a Béchamel sauce yet slightly more salty and stringy.
I like to opt for a simple Béchamel Sauce for a Croque-Monsieur, but often can’t resist adding extra grated cheese on top of the sandwich before it goes in the oven to create a golden top.
- A key to cooking a proper Croque-Monsieur is to be patient. A common mistake when toasting this sandwich on the stove top is to start on a pan that is too hot. The bread immediately gets toasted and the cheese doesn’t have time to melt. To avoid this, place your Croque-Monsieur on a cold pan, and then turn the heat up to medium. Both the bread and cheese will slowly warm up, and the cheese will start melting as the bread will start toasting.
- You can make the Béchamel sauce in advance, up to 1 day ahead before using it. After making the sauce, transfer it into a bowl and cover it with a plastic film that touches the surface of the sauce so no skin forms on top. Let it cool completely to room temperature and keep in the fridge until ready to be used. Before using it, re-heat the sauce in a saucepan over low-medium heat and whisk vigorously until it becomes smooth again.
- A common variation of Croque-Monsieur is called Croque-Madame, where your add a sunny-side up egg on top of each Croque-Monsieur, right before serving.
- This recipe makes 2 sandwiches; you can easily double or triple quantities for more.
- I love to enjoy Croque-Monsieur with a salad and a few Cornichons (French dill pickles) on the side.
I hope you’ll love this Croque Monsieur Ham and Cheese Sandwich recipe as much as I do! If you have any questions, please leave a comment!
You may also like:
- Belgian Endive and Ham Gratin (Endive au Jambon)
- Braised Rabbit with Prunes (Lapin aux Pruneaux)
- Bacon Wrapped Chicken Breasts in Grape Sauce
- Simple Chicken Marengo with Mushrooms
- Braised Chicken Thighs with Garlic and Onion
- Coq au Vin Blanc
For the Béchamel Sauce:
3 tbsp (45g) unsalted butter
3 tbsp (45g) all-purpose flour
2 cups (500ml) 2% or whole milk
¼ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
2 tbsp (30) unsalted butter
4 slices of Pain de Mie of French Loaf
½ cup (50g) Gruyère, Comté or Emmental cheese, grated.
4 slices Paris Ham
Step 1 - Start by preparing the Béchamel Sauce. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle with the flour and cook for 1 minute stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until a thick paste forms that leaves the edges of the pan clean. Switch to a whisk, and add the milk slowly, stirring constantly. Bring to a slow boil, and keep stirring until the sauce thickens to a creamy and spreadable consistency. Remove from the heat and stir in the nutmeg and black pepper. Adjust seasoning if needed (salt) and set aside.
Step 2 - Arrange the 4 slices of bread on your working surface. Spread ½ tbsp of butter on the 4 slices. Flip slices so the buttered sides are on the outside. Top 2 slices with (each) a little less than ¼ cup of grated cheese and 2 slices of ham on top. Close each with the 2 remaining bread slices.
Step 3 - Place the two sandwiches on a cast iron skillet (or oven-safe pan), and turn the heat to medium. Cook for about 7-8 minutes until the bottoms are crisp and golden. Flip the sandwich (carefully, with a spatula) and brown for an additional 4-5 minutes.
Step 4 - Spread a generous layer of Béchamel sauce on top of the sandwiches and (optional) top with the remaining grated cheese. Place the skillet in your oven under the broiler for 1-2 minutes. Keep an eye out so the tops don’t burn! Serve immediately.
Did you make this recipe?
I’d love to know how it turned out! Please let me know by leaving a comment below, rate the recipe and/or share a photo on Instagram: tag @pardonyourfrench and hashtag it #pardonyourfrench. Bon Appétit!