Rick Stein’s croque monsieur

The type of cheese and ham toastie served up in motorway service stations as a croque monsieur I would simply class as a stomach filler. This, on the other hand, is a pleasure – from the crisp toast to the hint of bay leaf and nutmeg in the béchamel, and the Gruyère cheese and good ham inside.

croque monsieur
James Murphy

SERVES 2

10g butter, softened for spreading
4 slices sourdough bread
1-2 tsp Dijon mustard
85g Gruyère or Comté cheese, grated
2 thick slices good-quality ham (about 50g each)
a few rasps freshly grated nutmeg

BECHAMEL

25g butter
25g plain flour
270ml whole milk
1 bay leaf
a few rasps freshly grated nutmeg
salt and black pepper

1.  For the béchamel, melt the 25g of butter in a pan, then add the flour and stir for a couple of minutes. Take the pan off the heat and gradually whisk in the milk, beating after each addition to avoid lumps. Add the bay leaf, put the pan back on the heat and bring to the boil, then cook, stirring all the time, until thickened. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper, then set aside.

2. Preheat the grill to a high setting. Butter the bread slices on one side and place them buttered-side up under the grill until golden. Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan.

3. Spread the untoasted sides of the bread with Dijon mustard.

4. Spread 2 of the slices with some of the béchamel, then add a quarter of the grated cheese and a slice of ham to each one. Top with the remaining slices of toast, toasted side up, and spread with the remaining béchamel sauce. Sprinkle over the rest of the cheese and season with nutmeg and black pepper.

5. Transfer the sandwiches to a baking sheet and bake them for 10-12 minutes until golden and bubbling. Eat at once!

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rick stein secret france recipeRick Stein’s Secret France by Rick Stein will be published on Thursday 31 October by BBC Books, price £26. To pre-order a copy with free p&p for £20.80 until 10 November, visit mailshop.co.uk or call 01603 648155.