I have come to a momentous decision regarding this blog. Instead of scanning through cookbooks to find interesting recipes to try, I’m going to stick to just one cookbook: Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck. I figure because it’s a masterpiece of cooking instruction it’ll be much less expensive than going to culinary school. And I’ll eat some really good food. So, for a year, I will make my way through the book, cooking all the recipes. 365 days, 524 recipes!
Now that I look at the book though, there are quite a few recipes for fish, which I don’t eat. And there are mushrooms in a lot of the recipes and I don’t bother with them either. Plus recipes for sweetbreads, brains and aspic.
Actually, when I think about this idea a bit more, I remember that this has already been done. In fact, the Julie/Julia Project was an incredible blog which evolved into a book which became a movie and the whole exercise changed Julie Powell’s life. So I will alter my momentous decision to something a little less lofty. In honour of the upcoming anniversary of her birth on August 15th 100 years ago, for the next month I’m going to make food from the cookbooks I own that have Julia Child’s name on them.
First up is a croque monsieur/madame. This is from Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, by Julia Child and Jacques Pepin, 1999. It sounds much better when the French name is used. In English, this would be called a grilled ham and cheese sandwich, which is lot less inspiring.
Here’s what happened:
Got together ingredients for Bechamel sauce.
ingredients for Béchamel sauce.
Made the Béchamel sauce.
Making Béchamel sauce.
Got the ingredients for the sandwich:
Assembled the sandwich:
Spread the mayonnaise.
Mayonnaise on the bread.
Then the Dijon goes on.
Add the Dijon mustard.
Cheese on one half, ham on the other (there is a layer of cheese under the ham).
Gruyère on one half, ham on the other.
Fry the sandwich in butter.
One side done.
Here’s the sandwich with the Béchamel sauce added. I realize I should have broiled this, but I skipped that step.
With a fried egg added, voila! It’s a croque madame.
Here’s the recipe.
Julia’s Croque Monsieur
Yield: 1 sandwich
2 slices fresh, reasonably soft home-style white bread, removed from the loaf in sequence for accurate reassembly
1 Tbs mayonnaise, preferably homemade
1/2 tsp Dijon-style prepared mustard
2 or more slices Swiss cheese (Gruyère or Emmentaler) 3/16″ thick and large enough to cover each bread slice.
1 slice excellent baked or broiled ham, 3/16″ thick, trimmed of fat and same size as cheese
2 Tbs clarified butter
Forming the sandwich
Lay the bread in front of you and open it up like a book (so that when you close the sandwich the right and left sides will match exactly). Spread an even coating of mayonnaise—about a teaspoon—on the top of each slice, and a smidge of mustard. Lay a slice of cheese on the right slice, followed by a slice of ham, then a slice of cheese. Turn the left slice of bread over on top of the right, and press firmly down on the sandwich with the palm of your hand. Rotate and press several times to hold the sandwich together (that’s why you want the bread to be fresh and fairly soft). With a big sharp knife, trim off the crusts all around to form a neat sandwich. (If not to be cooked at once, wrap airtight in plastic—useful when you are doing several.)
Preheat the oven to 300°F for final baking.
Film the frying pan with a tablespoon of clarified butter and set over moderately high heat. When very hot but not browning, lower heat to moderate and lay the sandwich in the pan, pressing down upon it with your pancake turner, and pressing down several times as the sandwich browns rather slowly on the bottom—2 minutes or so. Add another tablespoon of clarified butter to the pan, then turn and brown on the other side, pressing down upon the sandwich several times until its bottom, too, is lightly browned. (You may sauté 10 to 15 minutes in advance and finsih later.)
For a single sandwich, set the frying pan in the middle level of the preheated 300°F oven and bake for 7 to 8 minutes, until the cheese is fully melted. If doing several sandwiches at once, lift them onto a baking sheet to finish in the oven.
Make a Béchamel sauce (http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/White-Sauce-or-Bechamel-Sauce-40046/) to pour on top of the croque monsieur, then broil the sandwich until the sauce is browned and bubbly. Meanwhile, fry an egg then slide the egg on top of the recently broiled sandwich.