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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Asparagus and Prosciutto Croque-Monsieur

I have this habit of buying vegetables without having any particular plans for them. A week ago I bought a nice bundle of asparagus and had no clue what to do with them once I got home. I ended up making Asparagus and Prosciutto Croque-Monsieur which one of my standbys when I have asparagus that needs to be used. Basically a Croque-Monsieur is the French version of a grilled cheese sandwich in which there is cheese sauce poured over the bread instead of there just being cheese inside. The recipe is only in French but if you run it through babel fish or another translation site you will be ok. However, the recipe is so straightforward that you don't even really need a written recipe for it.

First step is to make a bechamel sauce. I don't bother scalding the milk or doing any of that. I always take two tablespoons of butter, melt them and then add two tablespoons of flour and stir. I then add a cup of milk in and crank up the heat until it gets to a boil while stirring constantly and then turn it down and stir until it thickens. If I want it thinner I add more milk. Once the sauce had thickened I add seasonings. If I am making a cheese sauce I add grated cheese once the sauce has cooled down a tad; if you add the cheese when it is at a full boil you risk it getting grainy or separating.

For the cheese sauce I used cheddar, salt, pepper, English mustard and nutmeg. This cheese sauce also makes good nacho cheese, you just need to add more cheddar to make it super cheesey and a sprinkle of cayenne and paprika.

Instead of using sandwich bread I used some French bread which I had. I wanted to make sure that it didn't get soggy once I poured the cheese sauce on top so it I spread a bit of butter on the slices and toasted them in the oven.

During the sauce making and the bread toasting I steamed the asparagus.

 Now for the assembly. You take a slice of prosciutto (ham would also work well) and wrap it around a few spears of asparagus. I always manage to tear the slices of prosciutto when taking them out of the package which mars the presentation a bit.


Then again it doesn't really matter since everything is draped in a blanket of cheesy bechamel.

This makes a really great, quick lunch. The first time I made it was for a brunch during the spring for my in-laws which fits since that is when asparagus is in season. The thick toasted French bread contrasts nicely with the sauce and the salty prosciutto along with the freshness of the asparagus. Do give this a try, it is a nice, easy way to impress the in-laws.
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