Fleur de Lolly column: Turn ham, cheese into croque monsieur
As I have told my faithful readers for years, I have never cooked a recipe from Ina Garten that was not delicious, unique and perfect. The following recipe is no exception.
The croque monsieur is a baked or fried ham and cheese sandwich. That seems so simplistic. But when you top with a lovely Gruyère and Parmesan cheese sauce, bake and then broil - this is SO much more than a plain ham and cheese sandwich. A nice side of frites (or French) fries sprinkled with sea salt and thyme completed the meal.
If you have leftover ham during the holiday season, don’t just make a boring ham and cheese for your friends. Wow them with this version!
• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
• 2 cups hot milk
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• A pinch of nutmeg
• 12 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated (5 cups)
• 2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
• 16 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed (I left mine on)
• Dijon mustard
• 8 ounces baked Virginia ham, sliced, but not paper-thin
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan and add the flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Slowly pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture and cook, continually whisking, until the sauce is thickened. Off the heat, add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, cup grated Gruyère and the Parmesan, and set aside.
To toast the bread, place the slices on 2 baking sheets and bake for 5 minutes. Turn each piece and bake for another 2 minutes, until toasted.
Lightly brush half the toasted pieces of bread with mustard, add a slice of ham to each, and sprinkle with half the remaining Gruyère. Top with another piece of toasted bread. Slather the tops with the cheese sauce, sprinkle with the remaining Gruyère, and bake the sandwiches for 5 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the topping is bubbly and lightly browned. Serve hot.
Yes, these shoestring potatoes are frites. What makes these little potatoes so special is the two-step frying process.
I usually allow one potato per person and then add one extra potato. Peel the potatoes and slice lengthwise about an inch thick. Then cut the slices into-inch wide pieces and soak in ice water for 15 minutes.
In a deep fryer or a large saucepan, heat 2 inches of oil to a temperature of 325 degrees. Drain the potatoes and blot them completely dry.
Divide the potatoes into batches and fry each bath until cooked but not browned. This will usually take 4 to 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes to paper towels to drain.
Reheat the oil to 375 degrees. Fry the potatoes (in batches) until crisp and golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the frites to a fresh paper towel to drain.
Season with sea salt and a sprinkle of dried thyme. Serve immediately.
- From Ina Garten’s “Barefoot in Paris”
Laura Tolbert, also known as Fleur de Lolly, has been sharing recipes, table decor ideas and advice for fellow foodies and novices on her blog, fleurdelolly.blogspot.com for more than eight years. She won the Duke Mayonnaise 100th Anniversary nationwide recipe contest for her Alabama White BBQ Sauce. You can contact her at facebook.com/fleurde.lolly.5, on Instagram and email@example.com.