I’m back once again to wreak havoc and mess with a classic. Today, I will piss off all of France with this Grilled Asparagus Croque Monsieur. Yes, I went ahead and made the celebrated and beloved Croque Monsieur vegetarian. I know, right? Gasps all around! Fortunately, I’m not important enough to cause an uproar. No one, save my beloved blog readers, will know I have committed this piece of culinary blasphemy. But, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this blog, I have a handful of vegetarian friends and I like to cater to them from time to time. Plus, let’s be real, the best part of a Croque Monsieur is the cheese, not the ham. So is the concept of a Grilled Asparagus Croque Monsieur really so disrespectful? Don’t think about that too hard.
As you know, mostly because I constantly bring it up, I spent last Christmas in Paris and it was glorious. I’ve never eaten so well in my life, but I have to say, the same cannot always be said for vegetarians visiting the city of light. Sure, there a few vegetarian restaurants, and really a baguette and French butter are enough to evoke a state of bliss. But living that vegetarian life in Paris does extensively limit your choices.
France’s proud culinary tradition is very meat-centric and, as an omnivore, I completely respect that. But I feel the most impressive aspect of Parisian cuisine is the cheese. And it’s not just the cheese in its raw form, it’s also what the French do with their cheese. Case and point: the Croque Monsieur.
For those of you who are unfamiliar, a Croque Monsieur is basically a ham and cheese sandwich on very buttery steroids. Essentially, Dijon mustard, thin slices of ham and gruyere cheese get melty between two pieces of bread. A bechamel is then spread on top of the sandwich, which is then covered in more cheese. The whole shebang is placed under a broiler until bubbly and evil. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Believe me, the sandwich tastes just as sexy as you imagine. Sometimes people take it even farther and add a fried egg to the cheesy monster to make a Croque Madame.
A Croque Monsieur is something everyone should experience. It’s hard not to overstate the deliciousness of this sandwich. You’ll sort of understand why when you read just how much cheese is involved. But nothing can prepare you for the full body swoon of biting into this gooey, cheesy mess of a sandwich.
Like I said, everyone should experience it, omnivore or otherwise. This is what motivated me to create the Grilled Asparagus Croque Monsieur. Now, I realize my lack of experience with cashew cheese limits my ability to let vegans in on this action, but I will keep tinkering and get back to you. No eater left behind! If you have any tips on making vegan cheese, let me know in the comments below. I’m definitely starting at square one, so talk to me.
I realize my gushing about this Grilled Asparagus Croque Monsieur may be enthusiastic to the point of terrifying. Believe me, I know what kind of cheese-pushing monster I am. But I’m only embarrassing myself to convince you that this sandwich was made for your celebrations, cheat days, and pity fests. It’s the perfect consolation sandwich, the “totally-over-it” sandwich, and the “job-well-done” sandwich. It is a sandwich for any occasion provided it falls in asparagus season.
So, don’t spend your time wrestling with common sense. Throw caution to the wind, be totally reckless with gruyere, and make this sandwich!
Grilled Asparagus Croque Monsieur
- Cast-Iron Griddle
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 shallot halved
- 18 whole cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 5 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1½ tbsp all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup white wine
- ¼ cup gruyere shredded
- ½ tsp Dijon mustard
- Pinch of nutmeg
- Salt to taste
Grilled Asparagus Croque Monsieur
- 1 bunch asparagus wooden ends removed
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 4 slices whole wheat bread
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 cup gruyere cheese shredded, divided
- 1 batch Gruyere Bechamel see above
- Fresh thyme and sage blossoms for sprinkling
For the Bechamel
- Pour milk into a small saucepan. Stud the shallot halves with whole cloves and add them to the milk along with the thyme and bay leaves.
- Heat the milk over medium heat. Remove the saucepan from the heat just before the milk comes to a boil. Using a fine-mesh strainer, strain the milk and set it aside.
- Heat butter in a saucepan until melted. Whisk in the flour to form a roux. Cook the roux until fragrant and light brown in color.
- Whisk the wine into the roux followed by the scalded milk. Continue to stir until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- Stir in the gruyere, Dijon mustard and nutmeg. Taste and season with salt accordingly. Transfer the sauce to a bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
For the Sandwich
- Place asparagus in a large mixing bowl. Add the olive oil and salt and toss to coat.
- Heat a cast-iron griddle over a high heat until smoking. Add the asparagus and cook for five minutes, turning frequently. Remove the asparagus from the griddle and set aside.
- Place bread slices on a large baking sheet. Broil until golden brown on one side.Take the half toasted bread slices out of the oven and spread 1 teaspoon of the Dijon mustard on the untoasted side of two of the slices.
- Place 10-12 asparagus spears on top of the mustard. Cover the asparagus with gruyere cheese. About 1/4 cup per slice. Flip the undressed bread slices over and return the baking sheet to the oven. Broil until the cheese on the asparagus has melted and the undressed slices are golden brown. Remove from the oven.
- Top the dressed slices with the undressed slices and cover with bechamel sauce. About 1/4 cup per sandwich.Top the bechamel with the remaining gruyere and place the sandwiches back under the broiler. Broil for 5 minutes or until the cheese has melted and turned golden brown. Serve with a sprinkling of fresh thyme.