Say hello to the croque monsieur – a delectable Gallic twist on the classic grilled cheese.

Bonjour, Mr. Delicious

Written by Marilyn Hawkes Category: Three Bites Issue: August 2017
Group Free
Café Paris
15125 N. Hayden Rd., Scottsdale
Some folks claim that the croque monsieur was a happy mishap – invented in the early 1900s by French laborers who left their ham and cheese sandwiches near a radiator. Urban legend or no, the sandwich (charmingly translated to “Mr. Crunch” in English) became popular in France and remains a staple in Paris bars and cafés. If traveling to Paris is out of the question, chef/owner Arnaud Catois serves a top-notch croque monsieur ($7.95, pictured) at his modest little café in the Scottsdale Design Center. Catois layers creamy house-made béchamel sauce, thinly sliced ham and Swiss cheese on slices of sourdough with a little French mustard and then pops it in the oven. He finishes by topping the sandwich with a slather of the velvety, nutmeg-infused béchamel and melted mozzarella cheese. “It’s fancy grilled cheese for the French… and different than the usual American sandwich.”
Vogue Bistro
15411 W. Waddell Rd., Surprise
At the West Valley’s pre-eminent French restaurant, the kitchen fashions the croque monsieur ($10) from brioche bread made by Jonathan Robins Bakery that’s been hand-cut into Texas-toast-size slices. The crumbly and buttery brioche is a delightful foil for ham and melted Gruyère cheese – particularly after Vogue Bistro chefs smother it with house-made béchamel sauce that drips over the side and pools onto the plate for dipping. Vogue Bistro’s croque monsieur is a popular “knife and fork” sandwich because the béchamel sauce makes it impossible to pick up with your fingers, according to general manager Jennifer Campbell. “This is definitely a comfort food dish.” 
Christopher’s Restaurant and Crush Lounge
2502 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix
Chef-owner Christopher Gross says there are many variations of the ham and cheese sandwich, but he makes a traditional croque monsieur ($14) akin to those served in French cafés. Gross’s version – crusty house-made country bread sandwiching a stack of razor-thin sliced French ham covered with melted, bubbling Gruyère cheese – is toasted in the wood-burning oven and then draped with béchamel sauce laced with mimolette (French cheddar), Gruyère and Parmesan cheeses. You can order it “madame” style with an egg on top, making it good “even for breakfast,” Gross says. And if you can’t remember which is the monsieur and which is the madame, Gross once offered this mnemonic on a local TV news show: “One has an ovary on it. You’ll remember that now.”