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.
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. —Eric Kayser
Start making the mornay sauce: In a saucepan, slowly melt the butter at low heat. Once melted, add the flour and cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk. Bring to a slow boil. keep whisking for 10 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Add the shredded gruyere cheese. Season with nutmeg, salt and white pepper to taste. Set aside.
Prepare the croque-monsieur: Gently butter one side of the bread slices and set them face down onto a sheet pan. For each croque-monsieur, Layer one slice gruyere cheese, 1 tablespoon of the mornay sauce, 2 slices of smoked ham, another tablespoon of mornay sauce, top with another slice of gruyere. Cover with a buttered side of bread face up. Set oven at 350F and cook for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cut each croque-monsieur into 4 wedges and decorate with chopped chives.