Late has been a theme in my life lately. Who am I kidding? It's ALWAYS been a theme in my life. Punctual is not my middle name. And deadlines, though productive in the end, always cause an immune system crash. But when it matters most—i.e. in blogging—I bear the most guilt. I was late for Cheese Sandwich Day. I'm behind on all of my posts (believe it or not, I do have a schedule). And I still have yet to submit my article to fabulous Alicat for Good Things (cupcake queen is still running around like a champ). Am I surprised? We're talking about a girl who gives Christmas gifts in January. Am I disappointed? Yes. Even my eating goes wonky. And when you're perpetually behind and disappointed, a cheese sandwich is all you can squeeze in. Luckily though, sometimes that's all you crave.
A trip to the market is theraputic for me. Not only is it a break in the literal sense, but since, in the end, the act is something utterly useful (what's more responsible than supplying a household of good things to eat?), I feel I can really take my time.
At my cheesemonger, I can taste everything before I finally decide on something. One Sunday, I had a hankering for a hard cheese, made somewhere where folks think liederhosen is cool, and the guys who made the Ricola commericals found their fortune. Gruyere seemed the obvious option. Then I turned around and found a display of Rolf Beeler swiss cheese. I liked the bold blocks with the sharp edges and corners that threatened to puncture through the clear wrap. But mostly, I loved the globules of dairy fat suspended in the curd. Like freckles. No, beauty marks. It would be awesome just shaved and eaten fresh or grated over my pasta. But that day, this baby was going to be melted.
Croque monsieur was on the brain. And this new found cheese had a savoriness that wasn't aggressive. Just smooth and distinct. "Butterscotch" as the label said. The ham had to match in finesse and flair and yet stand on its own like a Biggie-Puff Daddy partnership. I don't know if Sean Combs is a ham connoiseur between running his media empires, but if the guy has taste, he would know that Niman Ranch's Jambon Royale is da bomb diggity. Thinly sliced, my cheesemonger Jon, shingled them out in two layers fat and flesh streaked over one another. Missioni would die for such a print. I wonder if they ever considered pork as haute couture material. I'd totally wear that dress.
I don't care what boule-pursists insist. Sometimes what you really need is a loaf with heft. I love me a crusty baguette. But with the flavors of the Beeler and Jambon Royale in my mouth, I wanted something with chew and a bit of nuttiness. Whole grains. Roughage is good. Especially when it's sweet, like this Enterprise apple I picked up on the way to the cash register. Suspended in nitrogen in a cooler since the peak of apple season, it was freed from its sci-fi state so that I could enjoy it with my sandwich. Modern technology—something to ponder while you chew on a slice. Staring at the peel with flecks of light, you may even be inspired to ponder the universe.
Croque Monsieur, Lazy Sunday Way
When I finally got back from the store I discovered I was even more behind schedule. Suddenly the idea of a traditional croque didn't seem so feasible...or desired. So this came about more or less in a shotgun style. Very bastardized. Very lazy. But when crusty melted cheese is on top of that jambon and you've got a posse of cornichons and apples, new school is just fine.
One thick slice of multigrain bread * 1 teaspoons grainy (country-style) dijon mustard * 4 thin slices of Jambon Royal or some other ham you consider da bomb * 2 ounces of Rolf Beeler or any other cheese, sliced * sliced apples and cornichons to serve
Preheat the broiler and place the top rack 6 to 8 inches below the heat. Slather the mustard onto the bread and place onto a baking sheet. Top with ham, then the cheese. Heat under hte broiler for five minutes, until the cheese bubbles and brown a bit. Remove from oven and serve hot with plenty of cornichons and apples.
NOTE: Of course, this can be increased however many fold. Nothing complicated measurement wise. And the fresh apples are just as lovely with unmelted cheese, in case you're really in a hurry and behind schedule.