these croque monsieur paninis have everything there is to love about croque monsieur PLUS everything there is to love about paninis: creamy béchamel, salty ham, melty & gooey swiss cheese & good, chewy french sourdough grilled & pressed to golden perfection. a seriously simple, yet seriously elegant way to use up easter leftovers or entertain a couple of girlfriends for a weekend lunch (just don’t forget the rosé!).
can we talk about guilty pleasures for a second?
like, the embarrassing, i-can’t-believe-i’m-admitting-this kind of guilty pleasures?
ok. i’ll go first.
i have a major thing for stupid, feel-good rom coms. & this might not seem too embarrassing on the surface, but there’s also the fact that sometimes i’ll get into a mood & i know nothing’s going to fix it other than laying by myself in bed watching a rom com & crying my face off.
& while i’ll never turn down a good old nicholas sparks movie, my favorites are kinds of rom coms with a strong female lead amidst a life/identity crisis & needs to re-find herself. i like to think that the scripts & storylines, albeit a teeny tiny bit predictable, are intelligent & witty. like…the holiday. & crazy, stupid, love. or eat, pray, love. or in her shoes. & the devil wears prada.
so cheesy, i know. can we still be friends?
i’ll be the first to own up to the fact that that these movies aren’t the greatest stories ever, or the most well-produced films for that matter. hence, guilty pleasure…but sometimes you just need to shut your brain off & feel your feelings, okay?
one of my favorite movies falling into this category is it’s complicated. you know, the 2009 nancy meyers rom com with meryl streep & alec baldwin & steve martin & john krasinski? (& actually, it’s just one of my favorite movies, period. much to chris’ demise i own 2 copies of it. he’s asked me to get rid of the 2nd copy for as long as i can remember & is baffled when i tell him i can’t because it’s one of my favorite movies.)
if it’s complicated isn’t not ringing a bell, allow me to bring you up to speed: this is the one where meryl’s character, a successful ina-esque restaurateur, finally recovered from her divorce but starts to have an affair with her ex-husband.
if you haven’t seen it, you should. (hey, i’ll lend you my 2nd copy!)
if you have seen it, by now you should recall that meryl’s character has the dreeeeeeeeeeeeeamiest kitchen & home i’ve ever seen. like, the kind of perfection that you pin on your “dream home” pinterest board. a beautiful french farmhouse style kitchen with amazing natural light, an open-concept into the dining area, & the most understated & sophisticated marble slab island i’ve ever seen – covered a bounty of bread in baskets, fruit in bowls, herbs in planters, & baked treats on cake stands, of course.
omg. i die.
this kitchen is just everything that food should be about: an open & inviting gathering space for family & loved ones. (ahem…with an abundance of pastries…)
so it should come as no surprise that i absolutely died when meryl had steve martin’s character over for a casual dinner & whipped up croque monsieur while he was seated at that dreamy marble slab island.
ugh. how elegant & understated & sophisticated & amazing?!?! i.just.can’t.even.
& ever since then i’ve had a slight obsession with croque monsieur. i’ve made the classic, i’ve made it into a casserole, i’ve made it into crepes, & i even have it whenever i see it on a brunch menu.
& today i share with you one of my more brilliant creations as of late: croque monsieur paninis.
croque monsieur paninis have everything there is to love about croque monsieur PLUS everything there is to love about paninis: creamy béchamel, salty ham, melty & gooey swiss cheese & good, chewy french sourdough grilled & pressed to golden perfection. i add some arugula for a nice peppery kick.
aside from whipping up homemade béchamel (which literally takes 3 minutes & 4 staple pantry ingredients), these croque monsieur paninis are no more difficult to make than making any other sandwich: you generously butter the bread & season with a little pinch of salt (my secret for a flavorful, crunchy bite), flip the bread over & layer on your béchamel, cheese, ham & greens.
pop into a panini press & five minutes later you’ll have a seriously bistro-worthy sandwich (& if you’re anything like me, you’ll be pretending you’re in meryl’s it’s complicated kitchen).
croque monsieur paninis would be great for:
- easter leftovers. the thick slices of leftover easter ham would literally be perfect in these paninis, which do tend to get pretty flattened in the panini press.
- weekend brunch gatherings. last weekend my mom came to town to see beauty & the beast with me (uhh…have you seen it? AMAZING.) & i made these for lunch before the movie. they were totally comforting & totally satisfying, but still felt light & didn’t put us into food comas.
- wooing a man. i mean, just take a page out of meryl’s casual & elegant it’s complicated date night book, right?
- girls night. i can’t think of a better spring date with your girlfriends. set out some patio furniture, assemble the paninis, have them bring a simple salad & some rosé, & laugh the night away. does it get any better than that?
check out the recipe below & tell me…what’s your favorite rom com? have you seen it’s complicated? (& are you obsessed with meryl’s kitchen?) have your own guilty pleasure?…let’s hear about it! xx
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- 1 batch of bechamel sauce (ingredients & recipe below)
- 4 tbsp butter at room temperature
- 8 slices of french sourdough (or sandwich bread of choice)
- 1 lb ham, thinly sliced
- 2 C swiss cheese (I use a swiss & gruyere blend from Trader Joes)
- 1 C arugula (or greens of choice)
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1 C milk (plus more as needed for desired consistency)
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
- Melt butter in a small pot over medium heat. When butter is melted, add flour & stir to combine. Continuously stir for about 1 minute until the mixture browns slightly, cooking off the flavor of the flour. Turn heat to low.
- While stirring, add milk to the pan & stir vigorously. The sauce will thicken pretty quickly, so continue to stir to avoid clumping.
- Once the sauce reaches your desired thickness (it should be thick enough to coat the back of your spoon & stay separated as you run a finger over it), finish with salt & nutmeg, stir to combine, & turn off the heat.
- If the sauce gets too thick, don't worry. just add another couple splashes of milk & turn off the heat while you stir it in & it should thin out again.
- Preheat your panini press. (If you do not have a panini press, you could always pan fry these over medium heat - grilled cheese style.)
- Assemble the paninis: Butter one side of each slice of bread with 1/2 tbsp butter & sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Flip the bread slices over, & to their unbuttered side you're going to spread bechamel on half of the slices of bread & add cheese to the other half. Layer ham on top of the bechamel & add some greens on top of the cheese. Carefully flip each ham & bechamel covered slice of bread on top of each cheese & greens slice of bread, forming 4 sandwiches.
- Cook in panini press until crusty, golden, & heated through - about 5 minutes.
- Slice in half & pair with a chilled glass of dry rose!