A vegetarian version of the French classic, the Croque Monsieur
Let's get this out of the way at the outset: a Croque Monsieur is NOT just a cheese and ham toastie. So removing the ham and making a cheese toastie is NOT a vegetarian Croque Monsieur.
I'm calling this a Croque Muireann in honour of my friend who inspired it. It might have been called a Croque Theo, as my good friend and Chef Patron of Roasted in Strathaven helped with the mulling over of what to use to replace the slices of ham. I wanted texture and taste, but figuring out what those were as regards a slice of ham is an abstract task. A good natter over a cup of Theo's excellent coffee got me on my way.
There are many, many versions of the Croque Monsieur throughout Paris, let alone throughout France - this is based on my favourite: simple white bread with the crust on (not rolled flat either); buttered on the outside, a layer of ham (in the original), spread with Dijon mustard and sandwiched between sheets of Raclette. No grated cheese inside the sandwich. Fried in the pan, then topped with a Béchamel sauce with nutmeg, pepper and Gruyère stirred through. No sauce inside the sandwich.
The whole thing grilled for three to five minutes. Super-chouette!
simple white loaf
slices of Raclette
lump of Gruyére
mustard - Dijon
The Béchamel recipe is here
we're adding nutmeg, pepper and grated Gruyère
Watch the video
Slice the bread - not too thin, not too thick
Crusts on - some folk cut it off; some folk roll the bread thin - not here, not now, not for me
Top and tail then slice the aubergine quite thickly: it will get thin as it cooks
Aubergine in a pan with olive oil on a medium heat
Salt, pepper and oil on top
Take your time cooking it - a good 10-15 minutes or even 20, depending how dark you want it
Turn the slices over and repeat
While that's doing its stuff, make the Béchamel
Butter the bread
Lay the slices butter side down - so we're putting the filling on the unbuttered sides
Sandwich in a medium hot, dry pan (the butter does the cooking, and it will crisp up - giving the sandwich its 'croque' (crunch)
Keep your eye on it!
When it's done, turn it over (with care, love and attention - and maybe a bit of butter on your fingers) and repeat
Lay the sandwiches on a baking tray and spoon the thick cheese sauce over them
Pop them under the grill for 3-5 minutes - keeping your eye on them!