A famous French recipe for baked croque monsieur – ham and cheese sandwiches with Béchamel sauce and Gruyère cheese.
Mini croque monsieur sandwiches baked in the oven. Easy to make and incredibly delicious, this is a classic French recipe you will love!
What is a croque monsieur?
A French ham and cheese sandwich, topped with Béchamel sauce, which is can be fried, grilled, or baked.
The result is amazing, I have rarely eaten such a good sandwich. Crunchy French bread, hearty ham and cheese, and creamy, velvety Béchamel sauce.
I have contemplated other recipes using crème fraîche instead, but in the end I have decided to make the original. And I am so glad I did! No doubt the crème fraîche is good as well, but I cannot even imagine it could top this Béchamel sauce version, it was just too good.
The history of the sandwich
How did the croque monsieur or mister crunch become so famous? You can find it in many French cafes and smaller restaurants, it is usually offered for lunch and people seem to go crazy for it. No wonder, it is that good! Not exactly diet or health food, but... that's the way it is!
Its origins are not exactly clear, they rarely are when it comes to food (have a look at the Lamingtons post for another controversial story on the origins of a certain dish).
One story says that it was born when some workers left their lunch sandwiches too close to the radiator. The cheese melted and the bread got toasted and so the workers invented the the sandwich by mistake.
Another story claims it was invented in a cafe in 1901. The cook ran out of the baguettes needed to make the lunch sandwiches, so he topped and baked brioche slices with ham and cheese.
The sandwich was even mentioned in Marcel Proust's book “In Search of Lost Time” from 1918, madame de Villeparisis would let them know that she had ordered croque-monsieur at the hotel for them.
Make in advance
- I decided to make mini croque monsieur using French baguette.
- You can make the Béchamel sauce in advance and cover it with cling film/plastic foil directly over the surface, this will keep it from getting a skin. You can make it up to one day ahead and keep in the fridge.
- The sandwiches can also be put together in the morning, covered with foil, and baked in the evening.
- I did that, I've made the sandwiches for me and the kids for lunch. I saved some of them for my husband and baked them fresh in the evening.
- Absolutely no difference to the fresh ones made for lunch. So good, I was glad my husband couldn't eat all of them so that I could have another one myself.
- The most famous variation is the croque madame, which is basically the same sandwich with a fried egg on top.
- Other variations included croque poulet – made with chicken instead of ham, croque norvegien made with smoked salmon, another one with blue cheese, one made with potato slices or with Andouille sausage. Well, I would probably like to try them all...
What to serve with croque monsieur?
- I almost always serve them with salad with vinaigrette or yogurt dressing.
- Not very French but very delicious: a simple white cabbage salad or coleslaw.
- It goes perfectly with a glass of cold beer or with wine.
Baked Croque Monsieur Recipe
- Béchamel sauce Note 1:
- 50 g/ 1.7 oz/ scant ¼ cup butter
- 40 g/ 1.4 oz/ ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
- 375 ml/ 12.6 fl.oz/ 1 ½ cups whole milk
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 garlic clove
- fine sea salt and pepper
- Sandwich Note 2:
- 1 French baguette Note 3
- 100 g/ 3.5 oz/ 1 cup Gruyère cheese freshly grated
- 20 very thin slices cooked ham
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Sprinkle the flour and stir until the flour starts to color, it should be slightly golden.
- Slowly start adding the milk while whisking continuously. Add the mustard, nutmeg, salt and pepper generously and grated garlic. Stir well and let bubble, stirring often until the sauce thickens and becomes slightly elastic. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius/ 430 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Slice the baguette into thick slices, about 1 cm/ 0.4 inches thick, I had 20 thick slices. Place them on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Top each slice with a good amount of Béchamel sauce, about 1 good tablespoon sauce per slice, more if the slices are larger.
- Top each slice with grated cheese.
- Top only half of the baguette slices with two slices cooked ham each.
- Cover the ham slices with the remaining cheese-covered baguette slices, the cheese should be facing up.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes until the sauce and the cheese are bubbly and golden brown. Serve immediately with green salad, for instance.
- The Béchamel sauce can be made in advance, covered directly on the surface with cling film/plastic foil and kept in the fridge until later or the next day.
- They can be assembled a few hours in advance. Keep in the fridge until ready to bake.
- I had about 20 thick slices baguette, so 10 sandwiches. You can use a larger type of bread if you wish, my baguette slices were thick and small, just 3 or 4 bites per sandwich.