I remember the first time I tried a croque monsieur sandwich. It was at a tiny little French café in the heart of suburban Kanas City, an unlikely location to find authentic French food, especially ten plus years ago. From the looks of the strip mall location and unassuming store front, I had already made presumptions that I was going to be severely underwhelmed by my visit, but I charged on anyways out of curiosity, and well, we were there.
Upon entering the door to the almost empty café, I was immediately hit with the most wonderful of smells. Freshly baked bread. Coffee. Cheese. All things wonderful.
The menu was simple and hung haphazardly on the wall, but included classic French café dishes like nicoise salad, simple greens dressed in Dijon vinaigrette, pan bagnet (the equivalent of a French tuna sandwich), quiche, croque monsieur, croque madame (croquet monsieur with an egg) and a bevy of freshly baked from-scratch breads and pastries – heaven.
As most restaurant outings go for me, I was having a difficult time deciding what to order and was equally torn between a croque monsieur and the quiche of the day. After a lengthy tug-of-war in my head and silently weighing the pros and cons of each choice, I finally settled on the croque monsieur since I’d never had one before and NO ONE makes quiche like this Kansas City institution…
After ordering at the counter, and waiting the agonizing five minutes for my sandwich to arrive, what appeared in front of me was everything I was hoping for and more – and dare I say it…. life changing.
Hearty white bread (made in house of course) was covered in Dijon mustard, piled high with black forest ham, smothered in a creamy béchamel and then covered in an obscene amount of nutty and perfectly melted gruyere cheese.
I can vividly remember inhaling the decadent sandwich and thinking to myself how I’d gone this long in life without it being a part of my life. In that moment, I decided that a croque monsieur was the king of all sandwiches.
The gem of a French restaurant closed years ago, but ever since that first encounter, the classic sandwich has become something something I find impossible to resist. I love it so much that I’ve even twisted it into other dishes, like this pizza, a seriously decadent dip, and today’s puff pastry “pop tarts.”
While the classic version is perfect on its own, it can be seriously messy, or require a fork and knife (which I usually opt for), so instead, I thought it would be fun to stuff all of the ingredients inside two sheets of puff pastry making the sandwich even more decadent, portable, less messy and totally acceptable to eat with your hands.
Instead of black forest ham, I went with thinly sliced prosciutto for a saltier bite, plus I enjoy finding ways to sneak prosciutto in just about everything…
One piece of prosciutto is gently nestled onto cut puff pastry, slathered in a super thick béchamel sauce and then covered in shredded guyrere cheese. The top half of the puff pastry covers the filling, and then it’s brushed with egg wash and a little bit more cheese. I pop it into a 400 degree oven and painstakingly wait for the dough to cook and the cheese to turn a golden brown hue, which only takes 15 minutes, but may as well be hours.
At first glance the puff pastry or “pop tarts” look just as unassuming as that storefront did so many years ago, but just as many things go, initial looks can be deceiving to the eye. Because once you take a bite into this croque monsieur variation, it becomes apparent that this is anything but ordinary.
I’d even go as far as to say that this rivals the classic version…
So much for my diet….
- 2 sheets of puff pastry cut into 12 even rectangles
- 1 ½ tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup warm whole milk
- ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ¼ salt
- 6 thinly sliced pieces of prosciutto
- 1 cup shredded gruyere cheese
- 1 egg + 2 tablespoons water whisked together.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a siltpat.
- In a small sauce pan, melt butter over a medium heat. Whisk in flour. Cook one minute. Very slowly whisk in hot milk and dijon mustard. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer until thick, about 2-3 minutes. Set aside.
- Place six puff pastry rectangles on prepared baking sheet.
- Place one piece of prosciutto on puff pastry rectangle, top with 2 heaping teaspoons of béchamel and then sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of cheese. Make sure to leave an edge all the way around.
- Brush edges with egg wash.
- Place top half on filling and seal, making sure to get all air bubbles out.
- Brush tops with egg wash and sprinkle evenly with remaining cheese. Cut three silts in the top.
- Bake until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.
- Serve hot.