It really doesn't need to be complicated. The ham and cheese sandwich just works, and perhaps the most famous rendition of those two ingredients made melty between two slices of bread is the Croque Monsieur. While it's sometimes smothered with a cheesy roux-based Mornay sauce, for my taste it's plenty luxurious as is, perfect in its simplicity.
I especially like this rendition I came across in Bite by Bite, a new cookbook from celebrated New York caterer Peter Callahan. His recipe has the kind of attention to ingredients and detail than can take a sandwich from pedestrian to great, like subbing the ham with funkier prosciutto, making sure the Gruyère cheese is next to the bread (as it melts, it fuses with the bread and protects it from getting soggy), and melting butter first to brush onto the bread to make sure it's evenly coated and browns perfectly. With a caterer's small plates in mind, his recipes have huge flavor; when they graduate to a full meal, they make for excellent eating.
- Yield:serves 4
- Active time: 10 minutes
- Total time:10 minutes
- 8 slices white bread, preferably from a rustic or country-style loaf
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3/4 pound thinly sliced aged Gruyere cheese
- 8 ounces thinly slices prosciutto
In a small microwave-safe dish, microwave the butter on a low setting until melted. Using a pastry brush, brush half the bread slices on one side with butter, then set them out on a baking sheet, buttered side down.
Place 1/8 of the cheese on each piece of bread, then top with the prosciutto, evenly divided amongst the four sandwiches. Top with the remaining cheese and the remaining slices of bread. Brush the remaining butter on top of the sandwiches.
Place the sandwiches into a nonstick griddle or skillet, and set over medium heat. When the bread starts to sizzle, cook for one minute, until golden, then flip and cook the other side until also golden, an additional minute or two. Serve immediately while the cheese is still melty.