Croque monsieur or hot browns - either way, they're good

January 1, 2014 

Grilled cheese sandwiches are good comfort food, but grownup grilled cheese sandwiches are the best. Not only are they great tasting, but they make great use of leftover turkey and ham.

In Kentucky, they call the grilled cheese and turkey sandwich with a cream sauce "hot browns." The French call a grilled ham and cheese with béchamel sauce "croque monsieur." By any name, they are plain good and can be made lower in fat, by using lower fat milks and even farmer cheese, which is good for those who indulged a bit too much over the holidays.

Since I buy a ham for Christmas Eve, we have eaten our share of ham for a week. We've also had plenty of gumbo because my husband and father-in-law must have gumbo for Christmas Day dinner.

I decided to pull out my Ina Garten cookbook and do her croque monsieur sans some of the fat. I also used baby Swiss instead of Gruyere because I couldn't bring myself to buy 5 ounces of Gruyere for $9.63. Call me cheap. Another substitution was a spicy raspberry mustard instead of Dijon. After I made the sandwiches I realized a farmer's cheese would work, too, and lower the fat content even more.

MY CROQUE MONSIEUR

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups hot 2 percent milk

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Pinch nutmeg

4 ounces baby Swiss, grated

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

8 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed

Spicy raspberry mustard

8 ounces honey-baked ham, sliced but not paper thin

Preheat the oven to

400 degrees.

Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan and add the flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Slowly pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thickened. Off the heat add the salt, pepper, nutmeg,1/4 cup grated baby Swiss, and the Parmesan and set aside.

To toast the bread, place the slices on 2 baking sheets and bake for 5 minutes. Turn each slice and bake for another 2 minutes, until toasted.

Lightly brush half the toasted breads with mustard, add a slice of ham to each, and sprinkle with remaining baby Swiss. Top with another piece of toasted bread. Pour cheese sauce over the top of sandwiches. Bake the sandwiches for 5 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the topping is bubbly and lightly browned. Serve hot.

-- Original recipe with Dijon and Gruyere from Food Network's Ina Garten

For leftover turkey, try these hot browns. You also can use chicken in place of the turkey. Hot brown originated at the Louisville, KY's Brown Hotel. This recipe comes from another favorite cookbook of mine, "Cordon Blue Grass."

HOT BROWN

12 slices of white bread, toasted, crusts removed

12 to 18 slices turkey or chicken

1/3 cup butter

1/3 cup flour

3 cups milk

1 teaspoon salt

2 egg yolks, beaten

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon butter

12 slices bacon, cooked and drained (could use turkey bacon for lower fat)

In each of 6 individual baking dishes, place 1 slice toast. Top with 2 to 3 turkey or chicken slices.

In skillet, melt butter and blend in flour. Add milk and salt and stir constantly until thick and smooth. A whisk works wonders, too.

Blend yolks into the sauce, then Parmesan and 1 tablespoon butter. Pour 1/2 cup sauce over each sandwich.

Crisscross 2 slices of bacon over each sandwich and place diagonal halves of toast at the ends of each dish. Sprinkle additional Parmesan over all, run under broiler and serve when golden brown.

-- From "Cordon Blue Grass"

Pumpkin cupcakes

"I Googled the ingredients and found the pumpkin cupcake recipe that Mary Jones is looking for," Debra Wells said. " I hope this is the right one."

PUMPKIN SPICE CUPCAKES

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 19 minutes

Yield: 30 cupcakes

1 yellow cake mix (I prefer Pillsbury)

1 box of Pumpkin Spice Jell-O Pudding

1 cup of canned pumpkin (not pie filling, just pumpkin)

3 eggs

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients and scoop into a cupcake pan (with liners). Bake for 19 minute. Cool completely and top with cream cheese buttercream. Dust with cinnamon.

-- Submitted by Debra Wells

Recipes wanted

"I follow your column, and you had mentioned the Eggplant La Rosa recently in one of your articles. Do you have that recipe in your archives?" a reader named Barbara said. "I always ordered it when I visited Mississippi and ate at Vrazel's.

"Also, can you send me the bechamel sauce recipe that was with the Galatoire's Seafood Stuffed Eggplant? I missed it when I cut out the eggplant recipe," Barbara said.

Bill Vrazel is working on a cookbook that will include Eggplant La Rosa, so he is not sharing the recipe at this time.

Readers, you will have to help with the Galatoire's béchamel sauce. As I said in the Christmas Day column, my files are locked in my computer that no long has a working monitor. I haven't been to my faithful computer repair folks to pull the files off the computer to load onto an external hard drive that can be used with my husband's laptop. In other words, I need readers' help with previous recipes, and I do appreciate the help.

Mirliton recipes, please

"I am hoping I can get results from readers to help me. I would like some recipes for mirlitons," Brenda Roberts of Biloxi said. "I love them. A friend used to make them every year. She made stuffed mirlitons, some with a ham stuffing and some with a shrimp stuffing."

"I am a diabetic and have congestive heart failure and high blood pressure, so I cannot have salt and have to watch my sugar and fats. I also use no-salt seasonings. I am looking for recipes that will be good tasting. Can you help me? I appreciate any help," she said.

Readers, can you help Roberts start the year off with some healthy mirliton recipes? If so, please send them to me.

A very heartfelt "happy new year" to all my readers.

Andrea Yeager, who can be reached at ayeager51@cableone.net, takes contributions or requests at Cook's Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-4567.

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