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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Bastille Day 2016: Croque Monsieur and Frites

Oh, Bastille Day! The day to celebrate all things French. As I have told my faithful readers for years, I have never cooked a recipe from Ina Garten which was not delicious, amazing, and perfect. With Bastille Day falling on a Thursday this year, simplicity was a must. With work (blech), there was no way I could prepare a lovely multi-course dinner this year. So after browsing through several of Ina's cookbooks, when I came across the phrase "slather the tops with cheese sauce......", I knew I had found our meal!

The croque monsieur is a baked or fried boiled ham and cheese sandwich. That seems so simplistic. But when you top with a lovely Gruyere 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.


And here is Ms. Garten's lovely recipe:

2 T. unsalted butter
3 T. all-purpose flour
2 cups hot milk
1 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper
a pinch of nutmeg
12 oz. Gruyere cheese, grated (5 cups)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
16 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed (I left mine on)
Dijon Mustard
8 oz. 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, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thickened. Off the heat add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup grated Gruyere, and the Parmesan and set aside.

To toast the bread, place the slices on 2 baking sheets and bake for 5 minutes. Turn each slice and bake for another 2 minutes, until toasted.

Lightly brush half the toasted breads with mustard, add a slice of ham to each, and sprinkle with half the remaining Gruyere. Top with another piece of toasted bread. Slather the tops with the cheese sauce, sprinkle with the remaining Gruyere, 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.

Here they are straight out of the oven.


These were SO delicious!


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 1/4 inch thick. Then cut the slices into 1/4 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 - 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 - 2 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the frites to fresh paper towel to rain. 

Season with sea salt and a sprinkle of dried thyme. Serve immediately.


This was a wonderful weeknight Bastille Day meal.


From Ina Garten's 2004 Barefoot in Paris

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