Friday, April 24, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers: Croque Monsieur

I was very excited when I saw Croque Monsieur for this months recipe. We took a three week trip a few years ago to Europe (England, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, France) and I loved the food everywhere except for the food in Paris. I am sure it was my fault for not researching enough and finding where we should have gone to eat. Paris was very "touristy" - at least in the tourist areas where we were and I think the food at the places we went was low quality and high price. Well I know that was not what French food was supposed to be so I was excited to try this.

Croque Monsieur is basically just a ham and cheese sandwich - a very fancy ham and cheese with high quality ingredients. You start by making a cheese sauce. The cheese sauce was very good and I probably could have just eaten that by itself. The cheese sauce get poured over a ham and Gruyere sandwich and more cheese is put on top. I decided to make up some homemade french fries to go with.

The Croque Monsieur was very good but I did have a few issues with them. The thing that hurt it the most for me was that I thought it was way too salty. I didn't notice anything being too salty by itself but I think the saltiness of the cheese combined with the saltiness of the ham was a little overwhelming. I think next time I would get rid of the added salt in the cheese sauce and maybe use a ham other than Virginia ham which can be a little salty.

My other issue was the bread I used. I bought a good bread but I thought it was maybe a little thin. I read on other blogs of people using baguettes and things like that which I think may have been a good idea.

It also didn't help that I over did my French Fries. I new I should have trusted my instinct and not believed the 12 minute cook time that was on our fryer.

Overall I think the recipe was a winner - I just might play with it a little next time. Thanks to Kathy of All Food Considered for this months pick.

Croque Monsieur
Serves 4-8

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups hot milk
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 12 ounces Gruyere, grated (5 cups)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 16 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
  • Dijon mustard
  • 8 ounces baked Virginia ham, sliced but not paper thin
  1. Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan and add the flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Slowly pour the hot milk into the butter–flour mixture and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thickened. Off the heat add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup grated Gruyere, and the Parmesan and set aside.
  2. To toast the bread, place the slices on 2 baking sheets and bake for 5 minutes. Turn each slice and bake for another 2 minutes, until toasted.
  3. Lightly brush half the toasted breads with mustard, add a slice of ham to each, and sprinkle with half the remaining Gruyere. Top with another piece of toasted bread. Slather the tops with the cheese sauce, sprinkle with the remaining Gruyere, and bake the sandwiches for 5 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the topping is bubbly and lightly browned. Serve hot.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers: Chinese Chicken Salad

Sometimes the simplest things are the best. This was one of the easier Barefoot blogger recipes but it was also one of my favorites. My wife doesn't like peppers so I substituted about two cups or so of pea pods instead of the pepper. I put the pea pods in with the asparagus in the final minute or so of cooking to give them a quick blanch. I am sure the salad might have looked a little nicer with the red pepper but I think the pea pods were a nice addition. I was a little worried that my wife would not like this one with the Asian flavors but she even went back for seconds. This one is definitely a winner! Thanks to McKenzie at Kenzie's Kitchen for this months pick. Check out McKenzie's blog to see what it is supposed look like with the red peppers.

Chinese Chicken Salad
Serves 12

  • 4 split chicken breasts (bone-in, skin-on)
  • Good olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound asparagus, ends removed, and cut in thirds diagonally
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored and seeded
  • 2 scallions (white and green parts), sliced diagonally
  • 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds, toasted
For the dressing:
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup good apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon honey
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon peeled, grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan and rub with the skin with olive oil. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is just cooked. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Remove the meat from the bones, discard the skin, and shred the chicken in large bite-sized pieces.
  3. Blanch the asparagus in a pot of boiling salted water for 3 to 5 minutes until crisp-tender. Plunge into ice water to stop the cooking. Drain. Cut the peppers in strips about the size of the asparagus pieces. Combine the cut chicken, asparagus, and peppers in a large bowl.
  4. Whisk together all of the ingredients for the dressing and pour over the chicken and vegetables. Add the scallions and sesame seeds and season to taste. Serve cold or at room temperature.