Top of The Croques

November 20, 2012


Croque Monsieur

Finding the perfect croque monsieur became a bit of an obsession for me and @donalde for a while, to the point where we had a shared spreadsheet filled with croque locations and notes. We never found a really good one, even in France. The worst I’ve ever eaten though was at The Delaunay; it finished me off and the mission went swiftly on the back burner.

Then one day I find myself snuffling my nose around a bag of Italian truffles and getting very excited at the suggestion we might make a TRUFFLED SUPER CROQUE.

They’re a bit different, these truffs. Known as Bagnoli, or tar truffle, they’re a lot cheaper than the more famous ones (buy them here), and they also need a bit of cooking. Raw, they have a kind of petroleum scent that seems like it should really be getting you high; like if you ate a whole one you’d be tripping your tits off for DAYS. When cooked however, this mellows and they taste a lot more, well, truffly.

So the stages of croque construction worked like this: a slice of really fantastic sourdough, from Wild Caper in Brixton Market (some of the best carbs in London), which has the ability to absorb the sauce while still maintaining some self respect; a softer white loaf wouldn’t be able to handle such an oozy monster. Then, a butter flavoured with rosemary, garlic and Halen Mon smoked salt (HUBBA), followed by ham, a mixture of grated Gruyère and truffle, the other slice of bread, then an obscene wobbly blanket of thick bechamel, again infused with truffle, plus onion, bay and peppercorns. Oh yeah and then a bit more cheese on top. In for a penny and all that…

Holy SHIT. Ho. Lee. Shiiiiiiit. The best croque ever. Croquing amazing. Top. Of. The. Croques.

Afterwards I had to lie beached on the living room floor moaning ‘this is so uncomfortable’ whilst simultaneously being unable to get up and thinking constantly about the bite left in the kitchen that I’d not been able to manage. How could I let that happen? Could I not have dug deeper? Well, no, because I’d hate to sully the memory of such a perfect croque, particularly one that was such a long time coming.

We served it with a salad of endive and spring onion, sharply dressed, which is essential. Do not attempt to consume this sandwich without aforementioned counterpoint.

Croque Monsieur



Ultimate Croque Monsieur

Sourdough white bread
Gruyere cheese – shitloads
1 Bagnoli truffle, or some regular truffle if you’re loaded
Butter flavoured with garlic (which has been blanched in boiling water for 2 minutes), chopped rosemary and smoked salt

For the bechamel

40g butter
20g flour
425ml milk
A little of the truffle, grated
A few peppercorns
2 bay leaves
A slice of onion

Heat the milk gently with the truffle, peppercorns, bay leaves and onion. When it reaches simmering point, take it off the heat and strain into a bowl.

Melt butter and then mix in the flour, stirring vigorously to make a smooth paste. Start by adding the milk slowly, mixing all the time. When about half of it is in, start adding it in larger quantities. The sauce should be smooth and glossy. Let it cook out gently for about 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and season.

To make the sandwiches

Start by toasting the bread lightly. Spread with the flavoured butter, then add a layer of ham, then mix a load of grated cheese with grated truffle and spread that on, thickly. Then add the other slice of bread and top with loads of the bechamel sauce. Add a little cheese on top if you want to be really rock and roll. Place under a low grill until the whole thing starts to melt. It’s good to do this slowly as you want to make sure that the inside is melted. When it’s going nicely, turn up the grill a bit to get the top all nice and bubbly.

Eat with a sharply dressed salad, then have a lie down.

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  • Avatar
    Reply Shed November 20, 2012 at 11:44 am

    I fucking hate the pair of you xxxxxxx

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen November 20, 2012 at 11:49 am

      HA HA HA HA xx

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    Reply Jonathan November 20, 2012 at 11:50 am

    Wowzers trousers. That’s a ridiculous sandwich.

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen November 20, 2012 at 11:50 am

      Wowzers trousers! Straight into the vocabulary…

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    Reply Donald Edwards November 20, 2012 at 11:51 am

    love you too Swifty x

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    Reply Chloe November 20, 2012 at 11:51 am

    I need that in my face RIGHT NOW. Seriously indecent sandwich making, I salute you!

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen November 20, 2012 at 11:52 am


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    Reply Deepa November 20, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    Jesus christ.

    You are my heroes.

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    Reply Paul November 20, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    Madame where is the egg?

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen November 20, 2012 at 12:35 pm

      We were just discussing the technical difficulties involved in getting the egg right for a croque madame

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    Reply Catherine November 20, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    Blimey. Indecent. I love a good old fashioned American style grilled cheese sandwich, which is essentially griddle or pan fried. Using pain Poilane or something similar, like Wild Caper, butter outside pieces of bread, put sliced cheese inside, (strong cheddar or Comte is good) and choice of sliced tomatoes, thin slices of onion, salt and lots of pepper and cook on each side until browned. Perfection. Serve with tomato soup.

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    Reply Anne November 20, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Homena homena

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    Reply foodurchin November 20, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    Croquing hell, that croque looks incroquable, you have definitely cracked the ultimate croque, croque crack, that’s what you’ve made.

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen November 20, 2012 at 2:08 pm


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    Reply Paul November 20, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    i have a special little frying pan. Get the oil hot; drop the egg in and you get crispy white and soft yolk every time. Perfect for Croque Madame!

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen November 20, 2012 at 2:10 pm

      I’m not a crispy white fan I’ll be honest, but I’m loving the little pan!

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    Reply Hungry November 20, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    Holy shit (again).

    croque crack – quite so!

    i want. I want. i want

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    Reply Russ November 20, 2012 at 7:10 pm

    Bravo! Any particular ham used, or just what was available? Also I see KERB has a “specially curated wine & beer bar” – have you had a hand in the curating perchance..?

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      Reply Helen November 21, 2012 at 1:58 pm

      Ham was just a cooked ham. I’ve not had a hand in curating really but @donalde has…

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    Reply Jim November 21, 2012 at 10:25 am

    Croque Mondieu. Je suis spent.

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    Reply Lizzie November 21, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    helen helen helen. MARRY ME?

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    Reply Donald Edwards November 22, 2012 at 10:36 am

    the bar @KERB_ will be Camden brewery Helles lager and Wheat beer. The wines will be a Sauvignon de Touraine from Guy Allion and the red will be a Cotes de Rhone from Estezargues.

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    Reply Russ November 22, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    Excellent, thanks guys!

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    Reply Macrogue November 22, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    The. Hammer.

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    Reply Shu Han November 22, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    “Holy SHIT. Ho. Lee. Shiiiiiiit. The best croque ever. Croquing amazing. Top. Of. The. Croques.”

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    Reply jen November 24, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    I dunno, there’s something about the sandwich that doesn’t get my motor going, but can’t put my finger on it because i LOVE all the ingredients you used. And i”m a Frenchie, so why no lovin’ for this Croque Monsieur? Je ne sais pas! BUT what I do always enjoy is the way you write about your food stories. Always entertaining. Here’s hoping your food event on Thursday went off a charm.

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    Reply Funky foodie December 3, 2012 at 6:01 pm

    This looks like the kind of meal you’d request for your last meal…
    1, Because it looks goddamned deliscious.
    And 2, It’s so sinful it may kill you.

    If you ever make this again.. you should try to incorporate white wine into the sauce (a la fondue-style) ..and call it “Croque Au Vin”
    I think it would be a hit =P

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen December 3, 2012 at 6:02 pm

      I am LOVING that pun. I am also annoyed that I didn’t think of it myself.

  • Avatar
    Reply Donald Edwards December 3, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    Right I’m now thinking much much more than just a little bit of white wine in the sauce… maybe it’s the French Dip video I was watching, but I’m thinking something much much worse..

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen December 3, 2012 at 6:08 pm


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    Reply Vinny Grette December 5, 2012 at 4:04 am

    I spotted the Beard quote in the sidebar, and I get it that this is a sandwich to die for (especially the truffles!!!). But don’t you think it could be worth it to try to come up with fantastic-tasting food once in a while that doesn’t clog the arteries and might contribute to a longer healthier life?

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      Reply Helen December 5, 2012 at 9:18 am

      I don’t eat this kind of food every day, Vinny, believe it or not. THANKS FOR THE TIP THOUGH 😉

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    Reply Essex Eating December 9, 2012 at 9:04 am

    Holy Shit. Hoooooly shiiittttt.
    Food porn of the highest order. Amazing.
    That is all.

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