memories ...

memories ...

zondag 26 april 2015

Croque monsieur: our grilled cheese sandwich

I follow a number of food blogs and what struck me most this month are the numerous grilled cheese recipes. I gathered that April being the national grilled cheese month is huge in blog space. Now, as a citizen of Belgium, I cannot participate in it nor share this 'national'/American month dedicated to the love for cheesy sandwiches. 

thinly pressed croque monsieur, a salad (must)
and some curry ketchup

But that doesn't mean we don't know anything about grilled cheese at all. We in Belgium, however, do have our own terminology for these kind of sandwiches. They are all French in origin and even though most of us speak Dutch in Flanders, no one bothers to translate the terms. They are concepts. (In the Netherlands they call these tostis, they do translate the term as you see)
A few examples of classics in the grilled cheese category are:
- croque monsieur: a sandwich filled with cheese and cooked ham 
- croque madame: a sandwich filled with cheese and cooked ham with an egg (sunny side up) on top after toasting
- croque hawaï: a sandwich filled with cheese and cooked ham with in the middle a slice of pineapple
Sometimes we also add a pinch of cayenne or chili in between the slices of bread. To add a little kick and especially with the croque hawa├» this is highly recommended!
And to serve we take some tomato ketchup or mayonaise (or a combination of the two: cocktail sauce) and a salad as a side. Great meal!
All of these are then toasted in a frying pan with some butter or a croque monsieur machine (my preferred method because lots less greasy!). In the machine, you can make the washing up also a lot easier by placing some parchment paper between the machine and the sandwich. The paper will prevent the cheese from burning onto the machine and the clean up no work at all.

The cheese is the commonly found cheese variety like Gouda (this is a Dutch type of cheese and is pronounced  with an 'OU' like in MOUSE, just saying dear English natives!) but this really is according to everyone's taste.
The bread most people use is white bread. Some use special toast bread (pre-packed rectangular loaves) but the best way is of course some good bread from the bakery. Whole wheat bread is not often used as it's not the classic way and it just gives another end result, a different taste. My way to make things a little healthier is taking some slices of a light version of whole wheat bread (half whole wheat). Dark brown varieties of bread definitely aren't favorites around here for grilling ...

You see they are all very basic. Of course we also eat other fillings but we tend to stick to our old time favourites. Talking about our family: when we think about using pesto, vegetables or different kinds of meat on a sandwich, we don't often use normal sliced bread. Because of the richer fillings, we make the whole thing more stylish by using at least a French loaf, a ciabatta or another kind of more elegant bread. For more unusual fillings we go for the more unusual breads as well. 

The logic behind this is that croques in general are very common basic ways to use up some bread. Ham and cheese are also things we as a bread-loving people, always have in the fridge. We don't see grilled cheese as special dish, just another way of eating our slices of bread (as we eat bread for breakfast and for lunch every day). Something hot as lunch is a good alternative from time to time. 
Other fillings are not always common cupboard/fridge items, we need to buy them specially and if we do this, we can just as well buy an specialty bread.  

I saw a few very tasty things the last few weeks. Grilled cheese month is being celebrated all around and these are some I would love to try: 

Roasted red pepper, aragula and mozzarella sandwich from Two Peas and Their Pod, with a salad of aragula, tomatoes and pine nuts, this would be wonderful. 

Goat cheese, kalamata olive tapenade and grilled pepper panini by Pinch of Yum, as a lover of goat cheese it is looking delicious!

Grilled chicken and roasted red pepper sandwich from Pioneer Woman, I wouldn't make this with as much butter but the combination of flavour attracts me

Fig, brie and apple grilled cheese, also from Two Peas and Their Pod, I think many would like this with a salad and some crushed walnuts. 


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