Thursday, February 4, 2016

Triple Croque Monsieur Mornay

     A Saucy Knife & Fork Sandwich For A Chilly Day!
     Today's sandwich recipe was a lunch menu item at a French café where I was an apprentice early in my career.  The owner of the café was a well known portrait painting model from France.  The owner of the café specialized in posing for religious portraits, because he had the classic Jesus look that all famous portrait artists sought.  The French café owner's face can be seen on Jesus paintings at churches worldwide.
     Many times I have seen the café owner's illuminated face portrayed in religious paintings as the classic white linen robed Jesus with long brown hair and a heavenly gaze.  It was kind of weird because I always thought that the Jesus in the church paintings was an artist's rendition of a heavenly vision.  As it turned out, the Jesus in the famous paintings was just a bohemian French hippy from the 1960's who just happened to look exactly like Jesus!
     Working with a guy that looked exactly like the Jesus image in church paintings was entertaining to say the least!   Most times the restaurant workers addressed the French portrait model by his first name, but when there was a problem we always called him "Jesus, our savior!"  This led to some comical moments in the restaurant, especially as far as customer service was concerned.
     I remember one day when the waiter popped his head through the open kitchen door and told the café owner that some customers at a table had a complaint.  The owner said, "Oh good!  This sounds like a job for Jesus!"  Five minutes later, the café owner came back into the kitchen and we asked if the customer issue was serious.  The owner laughed and said, "When they saw Jesus walking through the dining room, the customers went into such a state of shock, that they actually begged for forgiveness!  I love it when customers think of complaining and then they start praying!" 

    That French café was a fun place to work and I learned a little bit about French cuisine in that place.  Today's sandwich recipe was marketed as a fancy version of a French Croque Monsieur.  A classic Croque Monsieur does not really resemble a triple decker sandwich smothered with cheese sauce, but because the restaurant owner was known as Jesus, his interpretation of the recipe was well respected.  His triple decker Croque Monsieur idea actually was heavenly and this lunch entrée sold well.
     French Brick Bread is best for today's sandwich recipe.  French Brick Bread looks like a rectangular brick with perfectly square edges.  This bread is slowly baked at a moderate temperature, till all of the moisture evaporates and the texture is crunchy throughout.  French Brick Bread can be compared to crunchy Holland Rusk, which is basically dry toast that has no brown color other than on the outer crust.
     French Brick Bread is not easy to find and I have never seen a recipe for this item.  We used to purchase Brick Bread from a bakery that was operated by Frenchman, who once was the personal chef for the President of France.  Given some time, I can figure out how to duplicate the French Brick Bread Recipe, but this is a project that I have not taken on as of yet.
     Since French Brick Bread in not commonly available, it is best to just mimic this specialty bread.  This can be done by cutting thick slices of soft crust French Bread, then baking them at a very low temperature till they are crunchy and crisp, with no brown color.    

     Simple Mornay Sauce (White Wine & Lorraine Swiss Cheese Béchamel Version): 
     This recipe yields about 1 1/2 cups. 
     The mother sauce for this version of Mornay is Béchamel.  The mother sauce for a classic Mornay is Velouté.  The Béchamel version was popular in the early 1980's and it is easier to make than a classic Mornay.   
     Any white cheese can be used to make Mornay Sauce, but Emmentaler (Swiss Cheese) or Gruyere are the classic choices.  
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour, while constantly stirring with a whisk to make a roux.  (The roux should look shiny and not caky.)
     Stir till the roux is a white color with very little hazelnut aroma.
     Step 2:  Add 3/4 cup of dry white wine.
     Stir till the wine thickens with the roux.
     Step 3:  Add 1 1/2 cups of milk while whisking.
     Add 1/4 cup of cream.
     Stir as the sauce heats and thickens to a thin consistency.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1 small pinch of nutmeg.
     Add 2 tablespoons of chopped onion.
     Add 1/2 of a bay leaf.
     Add 1 spice clove.
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a thin consistency.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add 3 1/2 ounces of grated Lorraine Swiss Cheese.
     Stir till the cheese melts into the sauce.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a medium thin consistency that can easily coat a spoon.
     Step 6:  Pour the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a ceramic container.
     Keep the sauce warm in a 135ºF bain marie.  

     Brick Bread or Rusk Preparation:
     *If French Brick Bread is available, cut 3 slices that are almost 1/2" thick.  Brick Bread is crunchy crisp from the start.
     *If Brick Bread is not available, then cut 3 thick slices of soft crust  French bread.
     Trim the soft bread slices, so they are 5"x 5" square shapes.
     Place the bread slices on a baking pan, side by side.
     Bake in a 250ºF oven till the moisture evaporates and the bread is throughly crunchy and crisp.  Try not to brown the bread! 
     Sweated Sliced Mushrooms:
     This recipe yields enough for 1 sandwich.
     Heat a sauté pan over medium low/low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/2 cup of thin sliced mushrooms.
     Season with sea salt and white pepper.
     Gently sauté and sweat the mushrooms till they are tender.
     Keep the sweated mushrooms warm on a stove top.

     Triple Croque Monsieur Mornay:
     This recipe yields 1 sandwich.
     The better the ham, the better this sandwich will be!
     Step 1:  Place 2 ounces of sliced roasted ham on 2 of the Brick Bread slices.
     Place 2 thin slices of Swiss Cheese or Gruyere Cheese on the ham.
     Place about 6 sweated mushroom slices on the cheese.
     Step 2:  Stack the 2 ham, cheese and mushroom sandwich decks on top of each other.
     Place the plain slice of Brick Bread on top.
     Step 3:  Place the triple decker sandwich on a baking pan.
     Spread 2 to 3 tablespoons of Mornay Sauce on the top slice of crisp bread.  
     Bake the sandwich layers in 300ºF oven till the sandwich is hot and the cheese melts.  (Try not to excessively brown the bread.)
     Step 4:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Use a spatula to transfer the sandwich to a plate.
     Pour a generous amount of Mornay Sauce over the sandwich and onto the plate.  (About 3/4 cup to 1 cup.)
     Garnish the top of the sandwich and the plate with the remaining sweated mushroom slices.

     Break out a knife and fork for this hearty French triple decker sandwich!  

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