Recipe: Chardonnay Croque Monsieur

I made a very “fancy” dinner last night… Croque Monsieur, which is really just a fancy French name for a Grilled Ham and Cheese.  Sounded impressive, yes?  It kinda was… cuz I added wine.  Wait… it gets better… I put it on the CHEESE!

Chardonnay Croque Monsieur

I started with some really yummy sourdough bread from the local grocery store.  I sliced it and popped it into a hot oven to dry the bread thoroughly.  As the bread was drying, I tossed a few tablespoons of Chardonnay with some tasty shredded cheese.  Note:  I used a sharp cheddar with a little mild cheddar thrown in, but I could have just as easily used gruyere or swiss cheese.  Since sharp cheddar is what I had in the fridge, sharp cheddar is what I used.  This is my favorite rule of thumb… use what you’ve already got in the fridge if at all possible.  I really don’t like to have to make a separate trip to the store for one item… I always come home with too many “extras”!  I also made sure that I had some deli sliced ham already in the fridge to be able to use… Check!
The biggest addition to this meal really is just a simple condiment.  I’m not sure what you’d call it, but I stirred together about half a ramekin of fat free sour cream a glob of dijon mustard some garlicsalt and pepper.  I used this flavored sour cream as the “glue” to keep all the layers together during the cooking process.  It was a really tasty addition.  I was making dinner for my husband and myself, so I used enough of all the ingredients to make four open-faced sandwiches (two for each of us).  If you’re making dinner for more people, you’d obviously want to have more ingredients on hand to feed everyone.

Once I had everything ready, I drained the cheese on some paper towels and blotted it to remove any excess moisture.  This is important because the excess liquid ends up making the cheese a little soupy instead of getting browned and toasty as it broils.

Assembling the individual Croque Monsieurs was quite easy.  I spread a thin layer of flavored sour cream on the dry toasts, topped it with ham (I used a thinner amount of ham for myself and a thicker layer for my husband… see?  Individualizing your meal is easy when YOU”RE the cook!), then spread another thin layer of the sour cream mixture.  Check out the photo of this in the collage I’ve included… even at this point, it’s looking delicious!  I piled on enough cheese to make a mound on each sandwich.  The broiler really did all the heavy lifting on this dish… bubbly and hot, these sandwiches were really decadent.

When I told a friend of mine what I was making, she let me know that she really prefers a Croque-Madame… and that is a croque monsieur with a fried egg on top.  I might have to try that one the next time this makes it into my dinner rotation.

Feel free to play around with your favorite cheeses and different deli ham… maybe even try a heavier bread… whatever you do, I hope you’ll try this recipe and see how it’s received in your family.  Tweaking recipes to fit individual tastes is really what makes cooking so much fun.

I may not be a chef… but my family will never starve.  Of this, I am certain!

On a side note:  my darling husband said that he couldn’t look at the name of this dish without being reminded of an episode of Friends, where Joey tries to learn how to speak French.  Apparently, in our house, this dish will always be known as “Joey’s Grilled Ham and Cheese”.  :/  Enjoy this YouTube link!

Recipe: Pumpkin Pie Tartlets

Ok… so this recipe doesn’t have to be made in “tartlet” form, but I was trying to make something that would be easy to transport to a Happy Hour function and the amazing sale on filo dough shells at my local grocery store sealed the deal for me.  I made a double recipe and used it for two boxes of filo shells AND an extra large graham cracker crust pie shell… and it worked perfectly.  The filo dough shells aren’t my favorite choice for this recipe – the shells are a bit too “papery” and I much prefer having something with a buttery or graham cracker-y taste – but they served their purpose and allowed me to make a “single serve” treat for my friends.

Since I’ve been working at James River Cellars for over a year now, I knew that I was going to try and incorporate some wine into the recipes that I traditionally use for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner.  I’ll probably use more wine (in slightly concealed amounts) when I repeat this meal for Christmas, but I started with the pumpkin pie recipe, with great results.

This recipe, given to me by my mother-in-law, only calls for 2T of water so I felt fairly safe substituting it with James River Cellars’ Reserve Chardonnay.  What took me most by surprise was the consistency change that happened when I added the milk mixture to the dissolved Knox brand gelatin.  Thankfully, the glue-like consistency loosened as the mixture came up to temperature, but it was a little disconcerting at first.

My version of Mom’s No Bake Pumpkin Pie (my husband’s favorite pumpkin pie)

1. Blend together  1-14oz can sweetened condensed milk (I use the fat-free version), 1 egg (slightly beaten), 1t ginger, 1/2 t nutmeg, 1/2 t salt and set aside.

2. In 2 qt saucepan, sprinkle 1 envelope Knox gelatin over 2T water (in this case, James River Cellars’ Reserve Chardonnay), let stand ONE MINUTE, then stir over low heat until gelatin dissolves.

3.  Blend in milk mixture that you made in step 1.

4.  Stir over low heat until slightly thick, about 5 minutes.  NOTE:  Don’t worry if the gelatin mixture seems like glue at the beginning… it will loosen up as the heat brings everything to temperature and allow the entire mixture to thicken.  Don’t be hasty and remove from heat too early – this is how the pie eventually sets up as it cools.

5.  Blend in 1-16 oz can solid pack pumpkin (not seasoned can of pumpkin pie) and whisk thoroughly.

6.  Pour into pie shell (I use a pre-made graham cracker pie shell, cuz that’s what M likes best – feel free to substitute a traditional pie crust if you prefer) and chill for several hours.

7.  Cut and serve with cool whip or Redi-whip.

If you decide to make an entire recipe of little baby pumpkin pies, know that you’re going to need three boxes of shells… it makes a lot of those things.  I simply like the idea of using the word “Tartlets” in a post after hearing John Lovitz turn the word into something hysterically funny on Friends so long ago…  if you’re not familiar, feel free to click on the “tartlet” link above… you’ll be laughing pretty quickly!

I wish you all a joyful Thanksgiving and a most blessed Holiday Season!