Here’s another monthly #TravelTuesday post for you… this time talking about something that’s standard fare in just about all Paris bistros… the Croque Monsieur!
You’ve been walking all morning, checking landmark monuments off your list, one by one…
- The Eiffel Tower…check!
- The Arc de Triomphe…check!
- Les Champs Élysées…check!
- Place de la Concorde…check!
- The Carousel du Louvre and her pyramide…check!
And now you have worked yourself up one fierce appetite.
- You don’t have a lot of time before the next sightseeing tour you booked…can’t be a 5-course gourmet French dining experience.
- You want something hot because for some reason…having something hot just seems to be a true and hearty meal…a sentiment passed on from your mom, ever since you were a kid. It’s not that yesterday’s jambon-beurre baguette wasn’t good…it was. It just wasn’t hot.
- You want something reasonably priced because let’s face it… “money doesn’t grow on trees” (something else your mom always said!) and you’re already three days into your two-day budget! 🙂
Enter the humble Croque Monsieur
The name, croque monsieur, literally means “a gentleman’s crunch” and this very simple dish is standard fare in most all Paris bistros, brasseries and cafés. Each will put their own spin on it, some of them making their version quite unique.
In its simplest rendition, it is a few slices of ham and a couple of slices of cheese between two slices of pain de mie (loaf bread – as opposed to baguette), that is then fried in a skillet and topped with grated cheese (often times gruyère).
From there, while the possibilities are not necessarily endless, they are at least numerous. Here are but a couple…
- Croque Madame: the ham & cheese is topped off with a fried egg
- Croque Chêvre: the inner cheese is replaced with goat cheese
- Croque Norvégien: the ham is replaced with smoked salmon
- Croque Tartiflète: sliced potatoes and reblochon cheese are added to the ham.
As you can see…the humble croque monsieur need not be so humble!
My Favorite Spot
One of the places you’re most likely to find me having a croque monsieur is at the L’Entracte Opera, 1 rue Auber in Paris. Not only is the food great and the service fast, but you’re only steps away from the Garnier Opera, so as soon as you’re done lunch, you simply cross the street, re-fueled and ready to go.
As you can see from this picture, their croque monsieurs are well presented and come with a side of fries as well as a salad. So while you get topped up with carbs, any guilt about that is tempered by the accompanying salad.
They have two levels of dining space as well as small bistro tables right on the sidewalk. The latter are, of course, part of the quintessential Paris experience so if you are able to get one, go for it. Just be forewarned of two things:
- Space is limited on these little bistro tables. As you can see above, there’s no way that more than two people can share the same table.
- Depending on the placement of the table, you could find yourself only inches away from masses of people – at waist-level – as they pass by. (At L’Entracte Opera, there are two tiers of tables on the sidewalk… if you get the ones closest to the building, this won’t be a problem for you).
(Note that all the seats are facing outward. This is common for Paris bistros as “people watching” is also part of the quintessential Paris experience!)
Try it at home
Want to bring a little bit of Paris right to your very own kitchen?
The croque monsieur will easily fit the bill.
If you already know how to make a grilled cheese sandwich, just add some ham to the inside. After you’ve flipped it for the last time, put some gruyère cheese on the top, let it melt and serve it piping hot.
If you’d prefer step-by-step instructions, the French site Marmiton has a great recipe where they also add a bit of salt, pepper, nutmeg & milk to the gruyère, mixing it & pouring it over the finished sandwiches and grilling in the oven until browned. The Food Network has an English recipe, but somehow it doesn’t look quite as scrumptious…
There you have it… a truly French staple… brought to your very own kitchen!