Is there a more iconic French sandwich than the croque-monsieur? Some will have the malice to answer “the ham and butter! », yes, but take the test: find a group of foreign tourists near the Eiffel Tower and whisper the word to them ” croque-monsieur “. The formula will have the effect of revealing a succession of clichés linked to the French art of living which will draw them towards the closest half of red and gingham tablecloth.
When he mentions it in a scene from “In the shade of young girls in bloom”, published in 1919, Marcel Proust ends up installing the dish in the popular culture of the Belle Epoque.
Appearing for the first time – according to legend – on the menu of a café on the Boulevard des Capucines in Paris in 1910, the original recipe for the croque-monsieur (a slice of cooked ham and a few thin strips of Gruyère cheese wrapped between two slices of bread golden in butter) quickly becomes a classic. When he mentions it in a scene fromIn the shade of young girls in bloom, published in 1919, Marcel Proust finished installing the dish in the popular culture of the Belle Epoque. Purists then cook the croque-monsieur by toasting it slowly in a pan – or by grilling it on a plate over the heat of the oven.
In 1925, Charles Champion, an Illinois inventor known for having developed the popcorn machine, broke new ground by filing the patent for the Tostwich, the first electric sandwich press in history. With the advent of gas stoves in the 1950s, French households acquired cast iron “croque-monsieur irons”, from the Cuisor or L’Etoile brand, which allowed quick cooking directly on the fire. . Today, usage favors the use of an electric waffle or panini press.
From his Marseille apartment, located at 7and floor of a bar of buildings, Cécile Cau, journalist and culinary author, has a breathtaking view. On one side, the cafes of the Old Port, on the other, the MuCEM and the sea that slips by. Between the two, sits its kitchen: an open space made of checkerboard tiles, antique crockery and vintage furniture. For the aperitif, she took out her old Cuisor croque-monsieur iron: “A real little gem, the likes of which are no longer made, which I inherited from a former mother-in-law”, she tells us.
On a wooden board, she cuts four slices from a square of homemade sandwich bread made with tangzhong, a water roux that gives the dough an ultra-soft texture. In successive layers, she then assembles her garnish: slices of ham from l’Estaque (the Marseille competitor of Paris ham) and thin slices of Emmental cut with a mandolin. Before closing the sandwiches, she sprinkles their interior with her touch: a teaspoon of crème fraîche with mustard, a small pinch of white pepper from Madagascar and two grated nutmegs.
The gas cooker rattles and she deposits a knob of butter at the bottom of her hot iron. The croque-monsieur will thus grill back and forth for ten minutes in their metal embrace. Once unmolded, they will reveal a most appetizing golden crust. In the mouth, the cheese melts and spreads with the same languor as the setting sun.
CUISOR double Croque-Monsieur device, second-hand, around 80€ on etsy.com