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Friday, May 29, 2009

Grilled Cheese ( & croque-madame...oh, la la)

There is nothing like a warm  grilled cheese sandwich on a cool day.  I remember when I was a child we had a folding griddle/waffle iron.  That griddle saw many silver dollar pancakes for Sunday breakfast, or the infamous grilled cheese sandwich.  To me it's just not a grilled cheese unless it is golden brown (from the addition of a lot of butter on the bread), various cheeses used, and "smooshed" (for lack of a better word).   Sure I've made many sandwiches with the little square cheese that comes in it's own plastic wrap, or a mixture of Swiss, American, and Mozzarella.  The mozzarella and Swiss bring out the kid in all of us when we cut the sandwich on the diagonal and gently stretch it apart to see how long we can make the strands!! What? You don't do that? If you don't, I'm sure you will give it the good old fashioned try next time.  I have fun with my food.

My sons both ate their share of grilled cheese sandwiches.  It was one of the first things that I taught them to cook.  A man's "gotta" learn how to cook!  I will never forget David cooking his sandwiches with care and pride.  I guess he must have been about 6 or 7 years old, eating a fresh warm sandwich, when the following phrase was spoken: "Mama, how old do you have to be to be a grill cheese cooker at Applebys?".  Ah...... he had his future planned.  Life is good! Food and comfort. Is there anything else that brings back childhood memories more exciting that the food we ate?

Today, I was looking in the refrigerator for lunch items.  I purchased an "ungodly" amount of Swiss cheese at a local warehouse, so I had plenty of that on hand.  A few slices of ham... yes, that's it!  I'll make a "Croque Madame"!!  What in the world is a "croque-madame" you may wonder?  Only the French could make the simple grilled cheese an elegant snack to be eaten with a knife and fork.  

Croque Madame is a variation on the Croque Monsieur sandwich served at many Paris cafes.

Croque Monsieur
Two slices white bread (white is the best in my opinion)
butter....... (yep, real butter)
two thin slices of boiled ham
Swiss cheese slices (really good with Gruyere cheese)

Butter one side of each of the bread slices.
Make a sandwich with only the ham in the middle
toast under the broiler until one side is golden brown, turn and toast the other side
Top the sandwich with a slice or two of Swiss cheese, and toast until hot and bubbly (be sure not to have it too close to the heat or it will burn)

Now, for the "Croque Madame"

Traditionally, one would toast the sandwich without the cheese on top, cut a hole on top piece down to the ham, break an egg in the hole, top with cheese, broil until white of egg is firm. Since I can't tell if the white is firm under the cheese. I make the sandwich of ham and bread and toast it.  I then fry an egg to my desired consistancy (I like mine "sunny side up"), put on top of the sandwich, cover with a slice of Swiss cheese, and place under the broiler until hot and melted.

You have to eat this one with a fork!! :)

This was one of the treats we used to eat for lunch at a cafe near the Sorbonne University on those cold, rainy days studying in Paris.  I remember our waiter, Michel, who looked forward to us coming to the cafe. One time, all of his tables were full, so we had to sit somewhere else.  He was angry with us, but there was nothing that we could do.  We told him "next time, your table" and he was back on friendly terms.   I think he just enjoyed helping us with our French language. I do remember a lot of laughter and "oh, la, la, NON!   

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Ingredients I must have in my kitchen (It's a long list, but I try and have these items on hand)

  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Cheese
  • Cumin
  • Curry
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Fresh Bread
  • Fresh Cilantro
  • Fresh Fruit
  • Fresh Garlic
  • Fresh Parsley
  • Greek Oregano
  • Kalamata Olives
  • Lemon ( At least 3 or 4 ALWAYS)
  • Peppers (Wax, Jalapeno, banana)
  • Red Wine Vinegar
  • Regular Olive Oil
  • Rice
  • Salad Ingredients
  • Sea Salt
  • Spanish Olives
  • White Balsamic Vinegar
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