Posted on 06 January 2011 by

A Better Grilled Cheese Sandwich

croque_monsieur_001By David Harbilas

I have never been much of a fan of grilled tomato and cheese sandwiches.

Maybe the reason is that most tomatoes are either hard and flavorless or so full of water that the sandwich turns to mush.

An easy solution to the problem is to make a tomato confit by peeling, seeding and quartering the tomato to make filets of the flesh, then roasting the tomato slowly to create a sweet but not overly juicy slice of the fruit.

American cheese has also been a pet peeve of mine, though it does melt well.

Mixing and matching cheeses is rarely a problem, though often sharp cheeses like cheddar rob the tomato of its subtle flavor. Brie is a decent solution to that problem, as it has a flavor somewhat more assertive than American but not nearly as sharp as cheddar. It also melts easily.

Another solution, however, is to make a croque monsieur with tomato instead of ham. Croque monsieur is a traditional French sandwich made with ham, gruyere cheese and a little béchamel cream sauce. The entire sandwich is baked with grated Parmesan cheese on top, creating a brown, gooey masterpiece. While this is hardly a quick fix it is something worth making for special occasions.

Makes 4 sandwiches

  • 3 red globe tomatoes
  • 4 slices of gruyere or swiss cheese
  • About ½ cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 slices of white bread
  • Olive oil

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Cut an X on the bottom of each of the tomatoes and place in the boiling water for 10-20 seconds, until the skins begin to loosen. Remove the tomatoes into an ice bath. Let the tomatoes sit in the ice for 1 minute, then remove and slip the skins off. Cut the tomatoes into quarters, cut out the center section of the seeds and pulp, leaving the outer filet of the tomato.

Place the filets on a sheet pan, drizzle with salt and pepper and roast for 30-45 minutes, or until soft. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and stir to create a roux. Cook for 1-2 minutes over medium heat, stirring. Add the milk and whisk. Cook over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes, whisking, until thickened slightly. Remove from the heat and season to taste with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, begin building the sandwiches: on four slices of bread lay 2-3 pieces of the tomato confit.

Top the tomato with one slice of the swiss. On the other four slices of bread spoon about 1 tablespoon of the cream sauce. Place the bread on the other halves of the sandwich, cream side down. On top of each sandwich spoon a little more cream sauce, spreading it to the edges, then top with the grated parmesan. Place each of the sandwiches on a sheet pan and bake for 10-12 minutes, until the top is browned. Slice each sandwich in half and serve.

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