Olivia Potts

A twist on the toastie: how to make a croque monsieur

It's become a French classic for a reason

  • From Spectator Life

When I was little, toasties were my father’s domain. Many of his fillings cruelly haven’t made it on to mainstream toastie menus (tinned chicken curry was my mother’s favourite) – but his corned beef and onion one has stood the test of time in our household, and toasties remain a mainstay in my grown-up home.

The croque monsieur is the more cosmopolitan, French version of the toastie. A croque monsieur is ham and cheese between two slices of toasted bread, often with a bechamel sauce inside and on top, bubbling and golden. There are lots of variations: the most famous is the croque madame, in which a fried (or sometimes poached) egg is placed on top of the croque monsieur. Occasionally you may come across the croque Boum-Boum (with bolognese) or the croque Hawaiian (with a slice of pineapple).

The croque monsieur is the more cosmopolitan version of the toastie – but it’s much more than just a cheese toastie with pretensions

Of course, it’s easy to dismiss a croque monsieur as a cheese toastie with pretensions, and it does take a little more time investment than its simpler cousin. But the combination of nutty, stringy gruyere, thick-cut ham and creamy bechamel has deservedly cemented the croque monsieur as a French classic.

Forget fancy sourdough – the best bread for this kind of sandwich is a soft, white bloomer. Aside from the fact it is traditional, you need to be able to bite through the bread with ease to prevent bechamel tidal waves. Now, I know you’re supposed to cut the crusts off, but I can’t bring myself to do it. It seems such a shame and a waste, especially when it means losing those little crispy bits of ham and crunchy bits of bread (and it makes me feel a bit like a child).

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Olivia Potts
Written by
Olivia Potts
Olivia Potts is a former criminal barrister who retrained as a pastry chef. She co-hosts The Spectator’s Table Talk podcast and writes Spectator Life's The Vintage Chef column. A chef and food writer, she was winner of the Fortnum and Mason's debut food book award in 2020 for her memoir A Half Baked Idea.

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