channeling my inner daniel...

that would be daniel boulud, four star and three michelin star chef.  I saw his recipe in ELLE DECOR and knew it was one to try.

You might be wondering what dish could this be?  How intricate? How involved? How labor-intensive?
Rest assured, I have yet to find the talent or patience to do anything remotely time-consuming.

The recipe: Croque-Monsieur.

I'd eaten a fabulous one at Mr. Boulud's restaurant, Bar Boulud. A ham and egg sandwich.  How hard can that be?  Well... this French sandwich involves béchamel, which in theory shouldn't be too difficult, (I make it frequently for The Kids' mac and cheese) though my mixture took over twenty minutes — double the time—to thicken.

Thankfully, the assembly took a quarter of that, and then it was into the oven for 15 minutes 

and 1 minute under the broiler.  

The Husband fried up eggs to convert the Monsieur into a Madame and we were all set!

The sandwich, if you haven't had the pleasure of eating one, is rich, filling, luscious and not! cholesterol friendly. You have the nutty saltiness of the gruyère juxtaposed with the creaminess of the béchamel, both set on the stage of subtly spiced pork and fantastic bread. For the bread, I used Balthazar's Pain au Levain (purchased at Eden Gourmet), which has a wonderful chew and sturdy texture, necessary to support the ham and grated gruyère.  I couldn't find a Pullman loaf, which has four square corners.

Try to get French ham if you can.  I used Jambon de Paris (also bought at Eden Gourmet), which is a wet-cured, mild and lightly-salted ham.  If you can't, a boiled ham will do.

A simple salad and a glass of champagne rounded out the meal and transported us to Paris, if only for the brief dinner hour.  Bon appétit!

by Daniel Boulud in ELLE DECOR
Béchamel Sauce
3 T unsalted butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
8 slices high-quality Pullman loaf bread, sliced ⅓- to ½-inch thick
12 oz. thinly sliced jambon de Paris (high-quality wet-cured ham)
10 oz. Gruyère cheese, coarsely grated
4 whole eggs (for the madame)
In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter and whisk in the flour until blended but not colored. Gradually whisk in the milk and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Set aside. (This may be made up to 24 hours ahead and refrigerated with a layer of plastic wrap placed directly on the surface; gently reheat before serving.)
Preheat oven to 400°F. Place bread slices in a single layer and spread each evenly to the edges with béchamel (all the béchamel may not be needed). Divide ham among four of the slices, trimming if necessary so it is within ¼ inch of the edges. Top all eight slices with equal amounts of grated cheese, spreading evenly to within ¼ inch of the edges.
Place the four bread slices with béchamel and Gruyère, cheese side up, on top of slices layered with ham. Transfer sandwiches to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Bake until cheese topping is melted and golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes.
To make a croque-madame, fry eggs sunny-side up and place one on top of each finished sandwich. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve immediately. Serves 4.

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