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Croque monsieur is a French sandwich made with ham, smothered in creamy béchamel and nutty Gruyère, and broiled till crispy and golden. Served with a green salad, it’s perfect for brunch, lunch or dinner, and a simple and crazy delicious way to use leftover ham.
My parents and I often end up in French bistros when they visit us in Montreal. They love a lively atmosphere with good wine and good food even more than I do!
They also love brunch. This all goes to explain why I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen my stepdad order a Croque Monsieur over the years.
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I, on the other hand, had never so much as tasted one until I made these for Phil and I on New Year’s Day. I was looking for something easy to use up some leftover Christmas ham, and Croque Monsieur sprang to mind.
If you’ve never had one either, it is basically a ham and cheese sandwich (though I’ve often seen them served open-faced here), covered in creamy béchamel and nutty Gruyère, and broiled to golden perfection.
In Paris, the béchamel sauce is reportedly an optional component, and presentation varies from one brasserie to another. A croque madame is a croque monsieur with a fried egg on top!
In any case, it is delicious, and really easy and quick to make at home – if you’re not flying to Paris anytime soon.
How to Make a Croque Monsieur
The first step is to make an easy béchamel sauce. If you’re intimidated by French sauces, don’t be! Béchamel especially is really simple.
The main thing is to whisk constantly. This is crucial for a smooth and creamy lump-free sauce. I added a bit of minced onion to mine for extra flavor, and a pinch of nutmeg. Stirring in some of the cheese at the end made it extra thick and, well, cheesy.
You can use many types of bread for a croque monsieur, from brioche to sourdough. I opted for sourdough, relatively thinly sliced at about 1/2 inch thick. You can even use regular sliced white sandwich bread in a pinch.
I toasted the bread before assembling the sandwich because I was afraid the béchamel would make it soggy, and I think this is key for a golden, crispy sandwich.
You can use pretty much any good quality ham. I had some leftover from Christmas, but deli ham is typically used and would work just as well.
Slather half the toasted bread slices with tangy Dijon mustard and a thick layer of béchamel. Add the ham and half the remaining cheese and top with the other bread slice.
Smother with remaining béchamel and cheese and broil till golden and bubbly.
It’s a thing of beauty, and perfect served with a green salad with vinaigrette to balance the richness of the sandwich. Try these for brunch, lunch, or an easy dinner-with-Netflix.
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- 1 1/2 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped yellow onion
- 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup milk
- pinch ground nutmeg
- salt and pepper
- 4 slices sourdough bread
- 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
- 2 cups grated Gruyere cheese
- 4 ounces sliced ham
- Preheat the broiler on high. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil.
- Make the béchamel: In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, a minute or two. Add the flour and cook for one minute, whisking constantly. Add the milk and keep whisking to break up any lumps, until the sauce bubbles and thickens, 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in nutmeg and a pinch of salt and pepper. Whisk in a half cup of the cheese.
- On the prepared baking sheet, toast the bread slices under the broiler on both sides until golden. Keep a close eye on them as they will burn quickly!
- On two of the bread slices, spread a tablespoon of Dijon mustard. Slather with a thick layer of béchamel sauce. Add sliced ham and a half cup of cheese. Top with the two remaining bread slices to make two sandwiches. Transfer the sandwiches to the aluminum-lined baking sheet. Top the two sandwiches with the remaining béchamel and cheese.
- Broil until the cheese is golden and bubbly, about 5 minutes.