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Monday, August 5, 2013


Posted by Bryna Bear aka Gluten Free Baking Bear

     This French version of a grilled cheese sandwich was a big hit at my French Tea Party last week.  Well worth the effort to make, each bite is absolutely delicious.  The warm melted cheese and cheese sauce is delightfully rich but a bit messy so you must use a knife and a fork to eat this sandwich.  
     Traditionally it is made with ham and gruyere cheese.  At the Tea I used grilled yellow squash for the vegetarian version and turkey ham for the rest.  I made a dairy free version using non dairy cheeses.
     Homemade challah bread was sliced and toasted.  Each slice was spread with some cheese sauce and then on one side a slice of ham (or grilled yellow squash for a vegetarian version) was placed.  The ham (or squash) was topped with grated gruyere cheese and then the sandwich is closed with the cheese sauce sides facing each other.  The top of the sandwich is then covered with more cheese sauce and more gruyere cheese.  For a large number of guests the sandwiches were heated in the oven and then finished under the broiler for one or two minutes.  This was served fresh and hot out of the oven.
     I used the Ina Garten aka Barefoot Contessa recipe and converted it to gluten free and dairy free as needed.  You can use many different types of bread for this sandwich, baguettes, white, whole grain, brioche, challah etc.  If you top it off with a fried egg it becomes a Croque Madam sandwich.  

8 sandwiches


Bread slices 2 slices per sandwich =  16 slices total (I used 18 slices for 9 people.  My bread was smaller in size since I took the crusts off for the Tea Party type servings.)  I used homemade challah.  You can also use white, whole grain, baguettes etc.
8 ounces Sliced ham.  I used turkey ham is it is lower in fat and tastes the same.  Also many of my guests do not eat meat but will eat fowl.  
For Vegetarians:  grill slices of vegetables such as zucchini, mushrooms or yellow squash.  
I used yellow squash that I rubbed with garlic oil, salt, pepper and herbs de provence (that I pulverized with a mortar and pestle) and cooked under the broiler for 5 minutes a side.
4 1/2 cups  Grated Gruyere Cheese.   
For dairy free use a dairy free cheese such as Daiya or Go Veggie Cheddar and also punch it up with a sprinkle of veggie Parmesan cheese such as Go Veggie brand.

Cheese Sauce 

2 Tbs. Unsalted Butter
3 Tbs. Brown Rice Flour
2 cups Milk
1/2 cup Grated Gruyere Cheese
1/4 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
to taste Salt, Pepper
Pinch Nutmeg

Cheese Sauce 
Dairy Free    

2 Tbs. Olive Oil
3 Tbs. Brown Rice Flour
2 cups Non dairy milk such as almond or coconut or soy.
1/2 cup  Grated non dairy cheese.  I used Daiya Swiss.
1/4 cup Grated non dairy cheese.  I used Go Veggie Parmesan.  It tastes the same as the real thing.
to taste Salt and Pepper
Pinch Nutmeg

Dairy Free cheese sauce on left and Dairy Full cheese sauce on right.
The dairy version comes out thicker.  Both taste great.

  1. If making a vegetarian version slice your vegetables of choice.  I used yellow squash, but it will also work well with zucchini or mushrooms.  Rub with garlic oil (or olive oil and garlic powder) salt, pepper and ground herbs de provence.  Grill each side for about 5 minutes under the broiler.  Set aside.
    Yellow squash rubbed with garlic oil, salt, pepper and ground
    Herbs de Provence.  Broiled 5 minutes on each side.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  3. Spread the bread slices out in one layer on baking sheets.
    Thin slices of homemade challah bread spread out on a baking sheet.
  4. Toast the slices by baking in the oven for about 5 minutes until lightly browned.  Turn the slices and bake 2 more minutes on the other side.  Be careful not to burn the bread.  Check it often and adjust the baking time according to the thickness and size of the bread slices.
    Toasted bread cooling on a rack.
  5. To make the cheese sauce heat the butter in a saucepan over low heat.  Add the flour and cook about 2  minutes until lightly browned with a nutty smell.  Add the milk gradually while stirring it in with a whisk.  Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens.  Remove from the heat and add the cheeses and seasonings.  Stir well and set aside.  For dairy free cheese sauce use dairy free ingredients and follow the same instructions.
  6. To assemble the sandwiches:  Spread each slice of bread with cheese sauce (dairy or dairy free).  Top half of the slices with ham or grilled vegetable slices and then with some grated gruyere or non-dairy cheese (I used Daiya Swiss slices).  Take the remaining slices of bread and cover the ham/veggie slices,  making sure that the cheese sauce spread sides are facing the center of each sandwich.   Spread the top of each sandwich with more cheese sauce and then more gruyere or non dairy grated cheese (I used Daiya Cheddar and Go Veggie Parmesan on top).
    Close-up of one Croque Monsieur.
    Sandwiches assembled and ready to go into the oven.
    The top left is dairy free.  The top right has dairy free sauce and real cheese.
    The three sandwiches in foil are vegetarian.
  7. Bake the sandwiches in the oven for 5 minutes or until the cheese inside is melted.
  8. Place the sandwiches under the broiler for 1 or 2 minutes until the cheese on top is melted, bubbling and lightly browned.  Watch the sandwiches carefully so as not to burn them.  
  9. Serve the sandwiches hot.  I cut each in half to make a prettier presentation.

     If you want to make only one sandwich you can assemble the sandwich and then brush the outside of each slice of bread with butter or margarine and grill in a skillet.  Grill one side until lightly golden brown then flip it over and grill the other side until golden brown.  Place the grilled sandwich on a baking sheet.  Top with some cheese sauce and grated gruyere and broil for 1 or 2 minutes until the cheese is melted, bubbly and lightly browned.  For a dairy free version use non dairy cheese and cheese sauce.

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