¼ cup flour
½ stick (4 tablespoons) butter
1 ½ cups milk
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
8 thick slices Italian bread (I like to hand-cut the slices), buttered
1 lb. shaved ham
1 ½ cups grated Gruyere cheese
For 4 sandwiches: Preheat oven to broil. Make béchamel sauce: In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt butter. Add flour, stirring one minute. Pour in milk and bring to a simmer, stirring, until thickened. Remove from heat and add Parmesan, nutmeg and salt and pepper. If sauce is a little too thick, thin with more milk.
Place buttered bread slices on baking sheet and broil until lightly browned on both sides. On 4 slices, spread a little brown mustard, about ¼ lb. shaved ham, and ¼ cup grated Gruyere cheese. Top with remaining 4 slices of toast. Spoon sauce over the top and sprinkle with remaining ½ cup cheese. Put back under the broiler until golden and bubbling. Serve hot with a knife and fork. The absolutely perfect accompaniment is a bowl of good tomato bisque.
Notes: Croque Monsieur literally translated means ‘Mister Crunchy’. A Croque Madam is with a fried egg on top.