One of my favorite sandwiches around here is from a French-inspired place in Traverse City. It’s a fairly typical croque monsieur – grilled ham and (gruyere) cheese, which is then topped with bechamel – but it’s delicious. With shaved, smoked ham, melty mozzarella, and fresh basil bechamel, my version is not as simple as theirs, but I like it more. Even better, the bechamel keeps well in the fridge, so making extra for leftovers works great. Or if you just want to eat it off a spoon, I wouldn’t judge you…or tell you that I didn’t do the same thing. Because I did.
In case you’re wondering, yes, bechamel is pretty much pretentious for “gravy,” but whereas gravy is made with drippings and milk and/or water, bechamel is made with butter and milk, usually plus herbs.
Basil Bechamel – enough for 8 sandwiches
2 1/2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cup milk (I recommend at least 1%)
1/2 cup fresh basil, finely chopped (measure before chopping)
1 sprig fresh thyme, finely chopped
salt to taste
Buns – get some good ones from the bakery
Sliced smoked ham
Fresh mozzarella (shredded will also work)
-Spread insides of buns with butter or margarine and toast on a hot griddle.
-Place butter side up on a cookie sheet.
-Layer desired amount of ham on bottom half of buns.
-Cover tops with thin slices of mozzarella.
-Turn broiler on high, and let oven get warm while you begin bechamel:
-Melt butter over medium heat in medium sauce pan.
-Heat milk in microwave until hot, but not boiling.
-Stir in flour and heat until it just starts to darken / place sandwich halves in oven, on lower rack.
-Slowly whisk hot milk into flour.
-Turn heat down. Stir in basil, thyme, and salt to taste.
-Remove sandwiches from oven when cheese starts to brown.
-Top sandwiches with a generous dollop of bechamel, and put the halves together.