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I have always loved France. That’s why, when it came time to pick what language I wanted to study in middle school, I chose French. I continued on through high school, and over the course on my studies I learned about the language, the culture, and the food. And I fell in lovewith the food. When I first learned about Orangina and Nutella, I thought they were the coolest things ever. Granted, to this day, I still think Nutella is one of the most amazing foods though I did get over my Orangina craze…Another food I remember learning about was the croque monsieur. It’s basically a fancy grilled ham and cheese sandwich, but it’s oh so good! Typically made with Gruyère or Emmantal (both Swiss cheeses) and a Bechamel or Mornay sauce, this sandwich first emerged in Paris in the early 1900s. Its creamy and cheesy and decadent. A perfect Parisian treat! Add an egg and you have yourself a croque madame! Croque Monsieur or Croque Madame
Yield: 2 sandwiches

Mornay Sauce:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
¼ cup Gruyere cheese, shredded
Pinch of ground nutmeg

4 slices firm white sandwich bread
4 ounces thinly sliced Black Forest ham
½ cup Gruyère cheese, shredded
2 eggs, optional

Preheat broiler, with oven rack set in center of oven.

To make the Mornay sauce: In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add flour and whisk for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk. Increase heat to medium-high and boil until sauce thickens, whisking constantly, about 2 minutes. Off the heat, add nutmeg and Gruyère cheese; stir to combine and melt the cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

To make the sandwiches: Place bread slices on baking sheet and bake for 3 to 4 minutes, or until toasted. Flip bread over and toast for another 2 or 4 minutes. Top two pieces of bread, each with half the ham and 2 tablespoons Gruyère. Top with remaining bread. Spoon Mornay sauce, then ¼ cup grated cheese over sandwiches. Bake for 5 minutes on center rack, then move the rack to the top position and broil for 3 to 5 minutes or until cheese is melted and golden brown on top. Serve immediately.

To make a Croque Madame, fry an egg sunny side up and place on top of the sandwich before serving.

Source: Adapted from Bon-Appétit and Ina Garten