If you’re even vaguely familiar with the delicious blend of crispy bread, gooey cheese, and warm ham that is the croque monsieur (which translates to “crunch sir” in French), aka “the Crunchy Gentlemen”, then you’re likely aware there is a variation of the Paris favorite known as the croque madame that is essentially the same sandwich just topped with a fried egg.
What you may not know is that there are multiple other variations of the béchamel-and-melted-cheese masterpiece that come with additional toppings including the croque señor (tomato salsa), croque Hawaiian (pineapple slice) and croque norvégien (smoked salmon instead of ham).
Chef Linton Hopkins‘s version of the croque monsieur may have a different name than the cafe classic but is actually fairly close to the traditional croque — which may have been created when some French workers accidentally cooked their ham-and-cheese sandwiches by leaving them on a radiator — in its composition.
Made with just six ingredients (bread, butter, country ham, béchamel, Gruyère and mustard), Hopkins’s Crunchy Gentleman is fairly simple, as is the reason why it ended up on the menu of his Georgia restaurant Holeman and Finch.
“Everything on our menu is decided on, ‘Am I hungry for that item?’ As in, I have no idea what you wanna eat, but I’m really good at knowing what I wanna eat. It turns out a lot of people like to eat that way,” Hopkins tells InsideHook. “I love croque monsieurs. It’s the ultimate grilled ham and cheese with just a little sauce to keep it moist. The style of Holeman and Finch is grounded in my great love of pubs and bistros. The Crunchy Gentleman was on the original menu and it has stayed with us as Holeman and Finch has evolved. Certain dishes are timeless.”
And, as is also the case with the Crunchy Gentleman, there’s no wrong time to eat them, be it morning, noon or midnight.
“When I get off of work, some people call that late night. We just call that after work. I love the idea of breaking the fast after your work day and I believe the height of civilization is having a good meal at midnight that isn’t fast food or bad food from a bar with good drinks,” Hopkins says. “What do I want to eat at midnight that makes me feel like I’m part of a thriving metropolis? I want something simple to take the edge off and have with an ice-cold beer. The best food does not have to be on a tasting menu. The Crunchy Gentleman is something you’d wanna eat all day.”
And now you can.
Holeman and Finch’s Crunchy Gentleman
Prep Time: Minimal
Servings: One Sandwich
- 2 pieces thick-sliced white bread
- 3 tbsp. butter
- 3 slices country ham
- ½ cup shredded Gruyère cheese
- ¼ cup béchamel
- 2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Lay out two slices of bread.
- Spread a little bit of your béchamel on one piece.
- Lay out your ham on top of the béchamel-covered piece and top with half of your cheese.
- Top with the other slice and butter each side of the sandwich coast to coast.
- Place a cast iron skillet or another non-stick pan on low heat.
- Toast your sandwich on both sides until deliciously golden brown. About 2-3 minutes on each side.
- While your sandwich is toasting, mix your remaining bechamel and shredded cheese together.
- Once your sandwich is toasted, place it on a baking sheet and top it with your cheesy béchamel mixture. Bake for 6-10 minutes or until the cheese mixture is all melting and starting to brown.
- Serve with a side of dijon.
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