Classics, Comfort Food, Sandwiches
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Madame et Monsieur …

“Est-ce un sandwich dans votre poche ? Ou vous êtes simplement heureux de nous voir…”


The Sandwich Diaries: Episode 1


Everyone has that thing, or list of things that “does it” for them food-wise. If you’ve been reading along over these many months, you would have picked up on a general theme in the foods and recipes I call “comfort food”… and that’s Cheese.. well, and Fried… and things stacked together… like a sandwich… (I do love me a good sandwich!)   
It’s funny, I don’t remember where I had a lot of my first of things… meals in general just float around the clock waiting their turn to be consumed. But a sandwich? I can quote you time, date and place.

My 1st:

 

  • Fried Bologna Sandwich? I was 8 and home sick with the flu.
  • Beef Tongue? Summer 1978 DB Kaplan’s Delicatessen in Atlanta. After an hour of pouring over their menu of 287 sandwiches..that’s what I settled on. (It was the end of my freshman year in college – and I was feeling particularly grown-up). 
  • First Reuben?  Dunderbak’s… December 1973 – long before I even considered working there. And well before we expanded that humble 20 sandwich menu to a tummy busting 216 sandwiches, 26 wieners and sausages.
  • Abbondanza?  Magic Pan, 1974 – May…noon-ish (it was my birthday) That wonderful stacked crepe sandwich layered with ham, cheeses, turkey and accouterments.
  • Croque Monsieur? Well, that’s today’s story…

 


By 1980, sandwiches were well into my repertoire of needful things in the comfort department. I had just moved to Savannah to work with Hyatt and knew nothing of coastal living, knew absolutely no one in the city and the only place I was sure even had sandwiches was Clary’s Drugstore. Largely because it was situated canter-corner across the street from my apartment and I could see the Coca~Cola menu board above the cramped counter from my bedroom window. But a patty melt or a club with those little frilly picks just wasn’t my idea of something good to eat. 
I took to roaming the streets in search of something to make me feel at home (food-wise).

 
Savannah came late to the corporate restaurant party. So at that point in time, the city’s squares were chucked full of odd little restaurants and cafes tucked away in old carriage houses and minuscule shop spaces barely large enough for a counter. On one particular winter prowl through the historic district, I had stopped under an awning for a minute to readjust my coat against that biting coastal wet cold when the door behind me swung open.

“You hungry? Come on in, we’re doing Mr. Crispys

Mr. Crispy was a Croque Monsieur
A Croque Monsieur is essentially a ham and cheese sandwich. Originating around 1914 to 1917 in Paris as a quick lunch for the growing urban workforce. Invented by… well, it doesn’t really matter who invented it, everyone now claims to be the inventor… kind of like the Philly Cheesesteak. It is served 4 ways: open face or two slice, and with or without Mornay sauce. It is cheesy, crunchy sandwich heaven.
 
 
To make your very own Mr. Crispy: 
We’ll be doing the 2 slice / sauced version
 
Croque Monsieur
Serves 2
Ingredients
4 – 3/4″ slices of good crusty bread
12 Ounces Sliced Ham (Not Shaved)
3 Cups Grated Gruyere
1/4 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 Tablespoon Butter
1 1/2 Tablespoons Flour
2 Cups Milk
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Black Pepper
10 Good Scrapes of Nutmeg
1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
Sheet Pan
Large Sauce Pan
Whisk
  • Preheat the oven to 400
  • Place the bread slices directly on the rack and toast until dry, crunchy and golden brown – remove and set aside
  • Make the Mornay Sauce:
  • Melt the butter over medium heat
  • Add the flour, salt and pepper and make a blond rue
  • Add the milk and whisk briskly to incorporate
  • When the sauce begins to thicken, remove from the heat and whisk in 2 cups of the Gruyere and the Parmesan cheeses – Set aside
  • Spread 1/2 of the mustard on 2 slices of toast
  • Divide the ham onto the prepared slices and top with a large spoon of the Mornay sauce
  • Top with the remaining toast slices, and coat the tops of the sandwiches with the remainder of the sauce
  • Top with the remainder of the Gruyere, place on the cooking sheet and bake at 400 for 10 minutes
  • Turn the oven to broil and heat until the tops of the Croques are golden brown and bubbling
  • Serve either piping hot or allow to cool to room temperature.
Over the years, the Crispy got upgraded and downsized, embellished and denuded into various incarnations. The most popular of these was the Croque Madame. A Mr. Crispy served open face with a poached egg on top.
 
 
 
 
Croque Madame
Serves 2
Ingredients
2 – 3/4″ slices of good crusty bread
12 Ounces Sliced Ham (Not Shaved)
3 Cups Grated Gruyere
1/4 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 Tablespoon Butter
1 1/2 Tablespoons Flour
2 Cups Milk
2 Poached Eggs (poached light)
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Black Pepper
10 Good Scrapes of Nutmeg
1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
Sheet Pan
Large Sauce Pan
Whisk
  • Preheat the oven to 400
  • Place the bread slices directly on the rack and toast until dry, crunchy and golden brown – remove and set aside
  • Make the Mornay Sauce:
  • Melt the butter over medium heat
  • Add the flour, salt and pepper and make a blond rue
  • Add the milk and whisk briskly to incorporate
  • When the sauce begins to thicken, remove from the heat and whisk in 2 cups of the Gruyere and the Parmesan cheeses – Set aside
  • Spread 1/2 of the mustard on 2 slices of toast
  • Divide the ham onto the prepared slices and top with a large spoon of the Mornay sauce
  • Top with the remaining sauce
  • Add the remainder of the Gruyere,  and place a poached egg in the center of each sandwich (I’ve added a slice of brie to the top of the poached egg)
  • Place on the cooking sheet and bake at 400 for 10 minutes
  • Turn the oven to broil and heat until the tops of the Croques are golden brown and bubbling
  • Serve either piping hot or allow to cool to room temperature.

7 Comments

  1. yes yes yes first croque monsieur – magnolia room downtown with mafirst reuben – perimeter mall with doris cook first cuban – Tampa Florida with brother Mark's familyfirst club – either dunaways or atherton's drugs. thanks for this post, Toby, I was just wandering in to look for a hot roll recipe. Amazing what we remember about our first tastes. best to you and the family

  2. When you get right down to it, tongue is just a muscle… (with a lot of little bumpy thingys on it. Peel it back and you've got something rather akin to brisket.And you're right, the Madame is really my fav..I do love me an egg on things

  3. those are some awesome looking sandwiches! I have to admit that beef tongue sandwich was and is my mother's favorite, but not so mine. I think your Croque Madame could easily become a favorite.

  4. mmmmm….melty, cheesey goodness….. this looks perfect! My boy is a sandwich guy himself and this looks scrumptious!

  5. I love that photo of the huge sandwich–thanks for posting the recipes. There's nothing like a gooey, crispy sandwich on a cold weekend day.

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