A French baker and chef, Eric Kayser is renowned for his relentless pursuit of artisanal bread-making and cooking. In 1996, he opened the first Maison Kayser in Paris, an authentic boulangerie & café, driven by a desire to share his love for great bread and traditional French cuisine. Today, Maison Kayser is in 26 countries.
I spend an incredible amount of time on planes for business but also to teach and advocate for artisanal bread-making and cooking around the world. When I finally land back in Paris, there are very few things more comforting to me than to make myself a croque monsieur.
A quintessentially French bistro classic, this gooey, cheesy ham and cheese sandwich is heaven on bread to me. It has become somewhat of a "welcome home" ritual that helps me unwind and never fails to remind me of the evocative power of food.
A fourth-generation baker, I grew up in the countryside in Eastern France where my parents ran an authentic "boulangerie de quartier." If bread runs in my family, croque monsieur is not far behind! From as early as I can remember, every Sunday, my mother would cut thick slices of pain de mie bread from the family’s boulangerie, smother the bread with a homemade béchamel, and top it with shredded gruyère cheese and thinly sliced country ham to make us croque monsieur. As a child, it felt like a King’s dinner, when for my mother—as I found out later—it was more of a fail-proof dinner she knew she could put together quickly when she didn’t feel like cooking. We both won.
In 1996, busy with opening my own boulangerie in Paris, rue Monge, I started thinking about what I wanted to put on my savory menu. Croque monsieur was a no brainer. Today, over twenty years later, this remains one of our bestsellers at Maison Kayser around the world. So much, that we have now added a version of the croque monsieur we serve at our sit-down cafés to our to-go offerings at our newest New York bakeries and cafés at 1377 Broadway and 400 Fifth.
How this dish became so popular and synonymous with French fare is easy to see. Croque monsieur is the unfussy side of French cuisine, simple and delicious high-quality ingredients elevated with a bit of technique. Since its creation in the early 1900s in a Paris bistro, it has stood the test of time in France’s food culture but also in mine. Croque monsieur has become my Proust’s madeleine moment and a way for me to reconnect with my childhood and all things French when I have been away for too long.
- 8 slices of Pain de Mie
- 8 slices of smoked ham
- 8 slices of gruyere cheese
- 2 ounces butter at room temperature
- Chopped chives (optional)
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup flour
- 2 ounces shredded gruyere cheese
- 2.5 ounces butter
- 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- Salt and white pepper to taste