There are many weeks in which I feel I’m a bit too ambitious in regards to my cooking so I decided to use more simplified recipes this week. I was craving French cuisine but deliberately stayed away from Julia (she’s the queen sometimes of long and complicated). I located three rather easy (not necessarily quick though) recipes from the Internet; an added feature that I could use some already prepared ingredients.
For our entree I made croque-monsieur, a hot ham and cheese (usually Emmental or Gruyere) grilled sandwich. I don’t eat these often enough but they really are delicious. My favorite part is the sauce (flour, melted butter, milk, melted Gruyere cheese, nutmeg and ground pepper) that is spread on the top of the sandwich prior to baking and broiling it.
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups hot milk
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch nutmeg
- 12 ounces Gruyere, grated (5 cups)
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- 16 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
- Dijon mustard
- 8 ounces baked Virginia ham, sliced but not paper thin
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.
I accompanied the croque-monsieurs with poutines, a Canadian dish that originated in the Quebec province consisting of French fries and cheese curds, covered with brown gravy or sauce. Cheese curds (the the solid parts of soured milk) are not readily available in American supermarkets so I ended up using an inferior substitute, grated mozzarella cheese. As a means of saving time and avoiding having to do any deep frying, I used frozen French fries which made the recipe a breeze. All I had to do for the poutines was cook the French fries, grate the cheese, and warm up the gravy, and voila.
For dessert I made pots de creme au chocolat (pots of chocolate cream), a rich, creamy, chocolate dessert. It’s not a complicated item to make although you do need to allow the ramekins to chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours once baked.
4 oz. chopped dark chocolate
3/4 C. heavy cream
2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
dash of salt
Heat chocolate in double boiler, whisking until melted. Stir in sugar and heavy cream,
whisking until smooth. Beat a small amount of chocolate mixture into bowl of beaten
egg yolks. Gradually add the egg-chocolate mixture back into double boiler pan. (This
step should keep egg yolks from curdling when mixed into the main chocolate mixture.)
Whisk and cook for several minutes over medium heat. Stir in vanilla and dash of salt.
Strain through small sieve to remove any possible cooked egg “lumps.” Pour into
demitasse cups or small ramekins. Chill until firm.