Which came first, the ‘Cuban’ or the ‘Croque’? Either way, it doesn’t matter! When it comes to the oozing, gooey and stringy stuff, all you really need is an affinity for coagulated dairy – say, “Cheese!” All smiles, most do respond to the call of hunger, especially when it includes fondue-happy melting pots of ‘gold’ or marble slabs of sophistication.
“Is it Gouda or Havarti, for you?” Certainly nutrient-rich, there’s no denying of this ancient food’s benefits. Even better, there’s something for everyone! Going international, cheese knows diversity. An arduous process left for experts, production methods are uniquely complex as are endless varieties. Still, there’s no fooling a connoisseur or their acute senses; incredibly, despite the year or origin, genuine cheese whizzes accurately distinguish among cured, wheeled, and curdled artisan favourites. Between aged pungency and sharp carvings from an old block, cheesemongers highly revere the object of their trade – inarguably, an epicurean admiration that amicably stinks!
Proudly made or devoured, enthusiasts of all sorts rejoice in impressionable national darlings – possibly, more than ‘la vâche qui rit.’ As seen and delighted in a Parisian boulangerie, one soon learns nothing beats the aroma and taste of steaming hot and crusty – baked on premise – French baguette. But then, the French outdo themselves and entice you with something exquisitely simple: torn baguette that is buttered and filled with mildly fragrant rind-encased soft-ripened regional Brie. In essence, a semi-soft ivory treat that evokes pure AOC certified authenticity.
Fortunately, a sumptuous Parisian snack need not be in-house or ‘à emporter’ – to go (food) – from a local bistro. Like the American grilled classic, pairing bread and fine quality cheese can easily be prepared in the comforts of one’s own kitchen. As for my take, and in ode to a cheesy memory, my menu is set on recreating the one and only ‘mister’ of widely popular sandwiches – le croque! Precisely, it’s ‘Monsieur’ – le Croque Monsieur.
Definitely getting bites of ‘crunch,’ this sandwich is typically pan-fried to a golden crisp exterior from which it derives its name – ‘croque’ is for crunch. As multifaceted in texture as in flavour, a true croque-monsieur is an irresistibly elevated ham and cheese sandwich. Equally non-partisan, Emmental or Gruyère are traditionally the choice of hard yellow Swiss cheeses to be used in the making of this ‘tosti.’ While some give their sandwich a French toast-like treatment – an egg and milk batter coating prior to frying – I forgo the making of a Monte Cristo. Courtesy of Béchamel sauce, a generous pouring of lusciously creamy nutmeg-kissed roux instantly enriches undressed deli. And for added elasticized pull, sprinkling more crafted cheese shavings makes for a successfully honed day of cookery. ‘Mister-men’ lined-up and enrobed with dairy accompaniments, the prepared tray is baked-off into the oven until the bread’s toasted and the sauce reaches a bubbling boil. Once cooled, anticipated bites of infused personality allow for an incidence of welcome déjà vu. Clearly, if ‘cheese-eyes’ or holes – as prominent in Swiss types – are the windows to a glutton’s soul, there’s no refuting the obvious: a croque-ful will goes hand-in-hand with a touch of ‘whey!’
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