Bonjour! This week’s cook-a-long with Chef Kit is all about two breakfast classics; Croque Monsieur and French Toast. Both of these menu items are famous the world ’round. Why? Because they’re absolutely delicious!
They’re also deceptively easy to make. In fact, they’re so easy you’ll be shocked! Both use minimal ingredients, are a great way to use up leftover bread – rather than throwing it away or worse, feeding ducks! (Feeding ducks bread is actually harmful to them, please don’t do it!)
I first met both of these dishes during my training days. They were part of our core skills development lessons, and at the time I wondered why?
Now, over two decades later, I have stopped wondering; they are perfect for learning the art of cooking. So, I’ll share those tips with you now.
Perfecting the making of a béchamel sauce gives many home-cooks nightmares; how to make a lump-free cheese sauce can be a mystery until you understand the secret. Then there’s grilling; learning how to make cheese melt and bubble, without burning. Of course, there’s also that dreaded subject of using leftovers. Some people love them, others loath them with a passion.
Personally, I’m a fan of a good leftover; there’s a challenge in creating something new from something old. French toast is the perfect example; it uses up old or stale bread, and makes something absolutely delicious with next to no work involved. How could you possibly have a problem with that?
What is Croque Monsieur?
To English speakers, “croque monsieur” sounds weird. Some folks can also be put off by not knowing how to pronounce the two words. So let’s break this down into easy mouthfuls; what is it, and how do I say it?
First, what is croque monsieur? In short, it’s a super-rich toasted ham and cheese sandwich, with a cheesy sauce topping. The sandwich is made with two slices of grilled bread, a layer of ham, one of cheese, a smear of Dijon mustard, and topped with béchamel sauce. It’s also baked for 10-15mins so that it’s super hot, and the cheese is melted and gooey. Trés bien!
Now, how do you say “croque monsieur”? That too is easier than you think! The first word, ‘croque’ is pronounced ‘croak’, like what a frog does. The second word, ‘monsieur’ sounds like “Mis-sure”.
What does Croque Monsieur mean? Well, it’s actually a little naughty. It’s literal translations is: “bite a woman, mister”., so not exactly what most people expect from a midday meal! Croque translates as “bite (a) woman” and Monsieur is “Mister/Master”. This all then gets quite saucy when you change Croque Monsieur to Croque Madame – by putting a fried egg on top of your sandwich! That’s how to make Croque Madame, and is well worth trying in person!
What is French Toast?
Let’s start with the obvious question, is French toast actually… French? The answer, surprisingly is yes, and no. The recipe for ‘French toast’ didn’t actually exist until the 17th Century, when the English gave the dish it’s common name, and it was then taken to the colonies. However, in France, the local variant, ‘pain perdue’ (meaning; ‘lost bread’) has been around since Adam was a lad, as it was, and still is, a great way of using up stale bread.
French toast is also a great substitute for pancakes or waffles for breakfast. The dish can be served with any type of fruit, grilled/fried meats, and of course maple syrup or honey. There is no hard and fast rule about what you can or cannot eat with French toast, so it’s a truly personal breakfast dish.
Equipment for Croque Monsieur and French Toast:
In both cases, you won’t need any fancy tools or gadgets! Just the basics below will get the job done:
- Mixing bowls
- Baking tray
- Parchment paper
- Measuring Jug
- Stirring spoons
- Frying pan
Ingredients for Croque Monsieur and French Toast:
- Gruyere cheese
- Cream (pref. double/thick)
Croque Monsieur Recipe
As always, when you’re cooking a new recipe it pays to read it first, and gather all the equipment and ingredients. The recipe for croque monsieur is straightforward, and you’ll master it with ease.
Note: when making the béchamel sauce, make sure your milk is still ‘hot’ and not ‘cold’ when you go to add it to the flour/butter mixture. The two will blend easier if they are of a similar temperature. Lumps are much more likely if one is hot and the other is cold.
Tip: If you do get lumps, you have three options: 1) blend it with a blender and strain. 2) strain it. 3) get as many lumps out by hand, and just enjoy it anyway.
On to the recipe!
- Chopping board
- Small saucepan
- Stirring spoon
- Baking sheet
- Cook's Knife
- Butter knife
- 250 ml Milk
- 150 ml Cream - thick if possible
- 150 gr onion roughly chopped
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- 2 bay leaves
- 60 g Butter
- 30 g AP Flour
- 20 g Dijon mustard
- 4 slices white bread
- 40 g Butter melted
- Dijon mustard to spread
- 200 g Gruyère cheese grated
- 6 slices ham
- Preheat your oven to 180˚C/350˚F
- Combine the milk, double cream, onion, garlic, and bay leaf in a small saucepan over a medium heat - warm until almost boiling.
- Remove from the heat and allow 10mins for flavours to meld, then strain into a jug to remove solids.
- Over medium heat, melt the butter, then add the flour and blend. Cook over the heat for 2-3mins, or until the mix looks like dry sand.
- Slowly, pour in the milk in batches, stirring thoroughly each time to ensure you don’t get lumps! A whisk can be helpful at this point.
- Slowly increase the heat, and bring the mixture to the boil (this cooks out the flour, so you don’t get a ‘raw’ taste).
- Again, remove from the heat, and add in the Dijon, stir throughly again.
- Brush the sliced bread on one side with the melted butter, and grill until golden brown, about 5mins.
- On the non-toasted side, spread thinly with Dijon mustard, and then a smear of béchamel, then top with 3 slices of ham and ⅓ of the grated cheese.
- Top with the other slice of half-toasted bread, adding more béchamel and cheese on the top (divide the cheese as ⅓ per sandwich, and ⅓ shared between the two sandwiches as the final topping).
- Place in the oven, and bake for up to 15 minutes, so that the cheese is bubbly and melted.
French Toast Recipe
This recipe, like all of Chef Kit’s recipes, is also straightforward and free of fuss. Basics to remember; have you pan hot and ready to go, soak the bread just enough to form a crust.
Tip: Don’t soak the bread too long, or it will break apart when you lift it up out of the eggy liquid. Soak the bread just enough that it seeps in a bit, but not so much as it becomes sodden.
Now, let’s cook!
- Frying pan or skillet
- Chopping board
- Large bowl or baking dish
- Spatular or lifter
- 4 Eggs medium
- 180 ml Milk
- 10 g Cinnamon ground
- 8 thick slices of 2-day-old bread
- 30 g Butter
- 20 ml Olive oil light
- Maple syrup; as much as you like
- In a largish bowl (one big enough to immerse your bread), combine the eggs, milk, and cinnamon, blending/whisking completely (no eggy bits left).
- Preheat a heavy-based frying pan or skillet, melting the butter and oil together (the butter gives better flavour, and the oil prevents it from burning).
- While the pan heats, take one slice at a time, immerse the bread into the egg/milk mixture, and leave for 1 minute to absorb some of the mixture.
- When ready, carefully and quickly transfer the soaked bread from the bowl into the frying pan - do not pour the mixture in, just lift the bread out of the bowl and into the pan.
- Repeat this process for all the slices of bread, forming a nice stack of 2 slices per serving plate.
- Dress the slices with fruit, berries go very nicely, and drizzle with maple syrup, serve immediately!
Thanks for checking out this week’s blog post on how to make Croque Monsieur, and how to make French Toast! I hope you’ve enjoyed the recipes, and that you’re able to join me, Chef Kit, for the Cook-a-Long on Saturday. If you do, please share a photo of your dish on your social media accounts, and use the hashtag: #LarderPantryandGarden.
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