Ham and cheese sandwiches have a home in many nations, but it’s no surprise that the French have a particular way with theirs. There’s the sexy name, croque-monsieur, there’s the nutty, tangy Gruyère and, of course, there’s the sultry blanket of béchamel sauce, bubbling and brown.
It’s the sheer decadence that sets croques apart from everyday ham and cheese sandwiches—although if you want to level up even further, a soft-yolked egg turns the croque-monsieur into a croque-madame: Quite an improvement, if we say so ourselves.
The bread. A French pain de mie for the ultimate sandwich; soft white sandwich bread will do just fine. If you want to be really traditional, cut off the crusts.
The filling. High-quality ham and French cheese are key: Gruyère is impossible to improve upon, but Emmental will get the job done, too. And though not technically mandatory, rich béchamel sauce is what really accounts for the sandwich’s irresistible appeal—the more, the better. Some boundary-pushers even work cheese into the sauce itself, making a Mornay sauce that’s still more indulgent.
Where to get it:
Bar Boulud; NYC. Of course a Daniel Boulud restaurant would create a classic croque to great effect, served warm with Gruyère and béchamel.
Comme Ça; Las Vegas. We’re all about the croque-madame, and Comme Ça delivers a particularly decadent version on its brunch menu, with a sunny-side up egg and rich Mornay sauce.
La Maison du Croque Monsieur; NYC. A whole shop specializing in the noble sandwich, La Maison du Croque Monsieur has another location in Paris, and a real following in New York. If the standard croque (with your choice of five high-end cheeses) doesn’t satisfy, consider a dozen more options—from the vegetarian Mr. Charley to the bresaola-mozzarella Mr. Eduardo.