Friday, August 27, 2010

Lunch in Paris

Cooking for someone else is always more fun than cooking for just myself. Besides, when it’s just me, I always end up with a fridge full of leftovers that I don’t eat in time and forget to freeze. The worst part is having to clean out the fridge when I remember the leftovers. I’m still working on a budget, so many of our meals involve some element of leftovers in disguise. Such was the case of the leftover bechamel.

I love bechamel sauce, but I can never get it to come out right. Since it did so for the lasagna, I wanted to make sure I used every last drop of it. My favorite use for new or leftover bechamel? Croque monsieurs. A croque monsieur is basically a grilled ham and cheese sandwich, then topped with bechamel and cheese and broiled, so the top is bubbly and brown. My mouth waters just thinking about it.

I marched myself up to the supermarket to get ham and bread. Can’t really have a ham sandwich without those. Swiss cheese was on sale. Today would be my day! Sandwich fixings obtained, I headed home.

I woke my slumbering roommate by informing him that Chez Lula’s kitchen was open, but only has one seating per meal. If he wanted lunch, he’d better drag his rear out of bed. According to the whiteboard, lunch would be croque monsieurs and a green salad, but I had more leftover magic up my sleeve. I chopped up the leftover “driest potato ever” and fried it with salt and garlic.

Blearied-eyed and on the phone with the NC Employment Security Commission, LA came to the table. He was greeted by a bubbling sandwich, some crispy garlic potatoes, and a green salad. Due to his conversation with “Tomas”, all he could manage for the sandwich was a thumb’s up. But he scarfed it down when the call ended. Creamy, cheesy, hammy, delicious were his descriptors. I overcooked the sandwiches a little, but the dark brown crust was hidden by the bechamel. Lunch was a hit.

Croque monsieur is probably one of my favorite things to eat. You can find it in Paris either with or without the bechamel, but I definitely prefer it with. Otherwise, it’s just a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. To make a good croque monsieur, I use Swiss cheese and Virginia-brand ham (honey ham and that boiled crap both make it taste funny). Also put a little smear of Dijon mustard on the inside of one slice of the bread. One of my former significant others said it wasn’t a real croque monsieur unless it was on a croissant. I think 40 million Frenchmen may disagree. Every recipe I’ve ever seen calls for white bread. But don’t even think of making it on wheat bread. Trying to make this a healthy recipe is really missing the mark.

LA loves to try pretending that he doesn’t like whatever it is that I’ve cooked. He didn’t even bother with this one. He was open in his love for this sandwich. I should probably stop all this cooking…he’ll never move out.

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