Diner food and bistro food might originate on different continents, but at the root, they’re two sides of the same coin. They’re draped in cinematic mystique, with iconic dishes that can spur argument over the smallest variation, and they both represent comfort food to locals and visitors alike.
Where they differ, at least to the North American eye, is in sophistication. What’s a steak sandwich got on steak frites? Or chef’s salad against salade niçoise? Or a ham and cheese on rye in comparison to a croque monsieur?
In general I’d say the problem is that familiarity can breed contempt, but for the last entry on the list, the answer is béchamel. And prosciutto. And lots and lots of Emmental. I’ve had wonderful versions of the croque monsieur at restaurants, but this one might be one of my favourites and it happened in my own kitchen.
I’m not sure I needed to know how easy it is to make a croque monsieur at home, but it will come in handy the next time I want to make an impression at brunch. And David Lebovitz’ version of bechamel is worth knowing, even if it leads me to less healthful eating on a more frequent basis. It’s so easy and perfectly creamy, with just a hint of heat from cayenne in place of the usual nutmeg.
Even if I can make bistro food (or diner food for that matter) at home, there’s still a place for those restaurants in my heart. Both kinds of establishments have been put on the endangered list, but they seem to be reinventing themselves at home and abroad. That’s good news. As long as they make room for classics like the croque monsieur, reinvention is the key to longevity.
You can read through everyone’s posts here. And consider joining this community of wonderful cooks and lovely people, as we work our way through David Lebovitz‘ My Paris Kitchen.
15 thoughts on “Cook the Book Fridays – Croque Monsieur”
Your sandwich looks amazing – so good for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Yes, I have the béchamel recipe saved on my phone. Definitely worth knowing for so many reasons!
The bechamel sauce is amazing, would be great to use for any type of sandwich!
Your sandwich looks perfect!! Definitely an impression when served for brunch;)
So true! I really enjoyed this post. I think pub food fits into the same category. These kinds of comfort foods are very special, every country has their own versions, and I think that most of us have a soft spot for the ones we grew up with.
It is sad that well made, old school diner and bistro food are not as ubiquitous as they were once. At least the recipes live on! Your sandwich looks decadent.
Haven’t put béchamel and prosciutto in one sandwich for a long time. It is worth doing this combo the same way we like to visit those bygone bistros. Great post!
What a wonderfully written post, Teresa. And, you’re right, familiarity breeds contempt. Michael always said that some people aren’t comfortable with the local medical community (wherever they may be) and that they’d rather go to the “out-of-towner with slides.” I love that line. I also agree with you that this is a recipe that perhaps we didn’t need to know. But, there you go. We do. Nice post. Again, you have been putting up some interesting stuff. (I always say that, don’t I.)
Knowing it’s so easy to make a restaurant favorite at home is the price we pay… I loved this one too, though I can’t justify making it often. Too much gooey cheese plus the bechamel! Yum!
I loved the bechamel! It made the sandwich restaurant worthy! Yours looks mouthwatering!
Your picture made my mouth water! Gonna have to come back and try this one another time.
Hi Teresa, have not had one of these in ages. Looks delicious.
What wonderful indulgence! One of my classic favorites and this is a wonderful rendition.
I love this post and your comparison of diner food to bistro food. This recipe is a dangerous one to know, but delicious!
YES, I’ll echo other people’s comments about knowing this recipe being dangerous. I chuckled at the knowing about this béchamel recipe. Going through these posts a week later is rekindling my desire to make this sandwich again. 🙂 Great photos, Teresa, and glad you enjoyed it!!