Cooking Challenge: Croque Monsieur + Pineapple for Rigel

I'll never forget the first time I had a Croque Monsieur when I was 16 in Paris with my family.  

Awkward teenager me in Europe with my siblings

Awkward teenager me in Europe with my siblings

I remember asking the waiter what it was and he simply said it was like a ham and cheese sandwich but a million times better.  Ok, sold!  

I tried to research the origins of this sandwich and found a few interesting stories: 

  1.  It was a popular bar dish for late-night patrons 
  2.  Some French workers left their lunch pails next to a radiator and it melted their ham and  cheese sandwiches 
  3.  My favorite story is one I found on the blog, Oui Always Have Paris

This tale of the sandwich’s creation dates back to the year 1901 and a Paris brasserie on the Boulevard des Capucines. Having run out of baguettes for the restaurant’s sandwich of the day, the chef took a loaf of pain de mie(similar to American sandwich bread), sliced it, placed ham and cheese between the slices and baked it to crispiness.
— Oui Always Have Paris

For some reason, I always love the stories behind recipes that come from someone quickly solving a problem to create something new.  

Now, the reason why I'm writing about this sandwich is because one day my friend Rigel (www.rigelgemini.com) challenged me to teach him how to make one of his favorite sandwiches with a twist.  

Let's back it up as to where this whole cooking challenge started.

A few months ago, Rigel asked me to bake a creative cake for his birthday, so since he loves Beyonce as much as I do, I created a Beyhive Cake, similar to what Blake Lively made for the real Beyonce.  

So after creating this, he figured, why not up the ante and give me another cooking challenge.

Now, back to this post.  Obviously if you've made it this far into the post, it's the Croque Monsieur. The twist is he wanted me to somehow incorporate pineapple into it.  

Hmm...Pineapple + French classic.  How could I do this and not royally screw it up?  

Pineapples are one of my favorite fruits.  I love them, even though I'm kind of allergic to them.  

I wanted to make sure that whatever I made wouldn't be too much like a Hawaiian pizza (nothing wrong with this combo, I actually enjoy it, but it would defeat the purpose of making this sandwich).  

First, I had to find the basic elements of a Croque Monsieur: Bread, ham, cream sauce (bechamel/marnay), cheese and butter.  

I researched Pinterest and french cookbooks and came across an interesting take from chef extraordinaire, Rachel Khoo.

In her book, "The Little Paris Kitchen" she created Croque Madame muffins (basically a croque monsieur, but with an egg on top and in muffin form!).  And I thought to myself, what a perfect little bucket to hold my new favorite pineapple jam I discovered at the Renegade Fair: Dawn by Woo Garden

Price: $10 per bottle

Price: $10 per bottle

Here's my quick tutorial/guide for Rigel on how to assemble these little muffins together: 

And here's the recipe with instructions on how to put this together:

Serving Size: 6 | Prep Time: 20 minutes | Baking Time: 15-20 minutes

Serving Size: 6 | Prep Time: 20 minutes | Baking Time: 15-20 minutes

 

INGREDIENTS / TOOLS

Tools
Rolling Pin
Cutting Board
Muffin/Cupcake Tin
Whisk
Knife
Glazing Brush (if you have one)

Everything Else
6 large slices of bread (white bread or brioche) 
3 tbsp of butter (melted)
2 1/2 oz ham, cut into thin strips
6 tbsp of Dawn Pineapple Jam by Woo Garden

Marnay Sauce
1 tbsp of butter
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp milk (lukewarm)
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard (get the smooth kind)
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup grated gruyere (my preference, but you can use a strong
hard cheese like parmesan or cheddar)
salt
pepper

 

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Recipe inspired by Rachel Khoo

Muffin
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F
Flatten slices of crustless bread using a rolling pin
Brush both sides of the bread with melted butter
Line the muffin tin with the slices of bread to make it into a muffin shape  (See photo example)
Divide the sliced ham evenly among the muffin cups
Add two tablespoons of the marnay sauce to each of the muffin cups
Sprinkle with shredded gruyere cheese and light pepper at the top  
Bake for 15-20 minutes (it is done when you reach the level of cheese melt you desire + bread toast level)
Remove from oven and add pineapple jam to the center
Serve immediately 

Marnay Sauce
Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat  
Add the flour and use a whisk to mix the butter and flour until you have a smooth paste  
Take off the heat and leave to cool for 2 minutes, then gradually add the milk, whisking constantly.  
Place the pan back over medium heat, add the mustard, nutmeg, cinnamon (that was my addition - so it's optional), a pinch of salt and simmer gently for 10 minutes, whisking frequently to stop the sauce from burning at the bottom of the pan.  
Once the sauce thickens, take it off the heat and add the cheese (keep some to use for garnish on top).  Mix together until cheese is melted.  *If the sauce is too thick, add a little milk to thin it out.  


Special Credit:

Rachel Khoo "The Little Paris Kitchen" for inspiring the recipe above.  Buy her book! It's awesome! 

Woo Garden for creating the amazing Dawn jam.