I’ve never made Croque Monsieur before. Never on land and certainly never on the water. But we were having French guests aboard Night Town for a day sail. And for some reason inconnue, I decided it would be a really good idea to make them a traditional French lunch.
What was I thinking?
My first obstacle was that I was expecting to feed six, not eight. But on the bright side, the additional 2 guests were full-on sailors. That meant I could be a full-on Galley Pirate.
I did happen to find some great European bread at a local liquor store. Go figure. (Annapolis: A Drinking Town with a Sailing Problem) that I sliced up under way as we passed…
…under the Spa Creek Bridge and…
…motored by the last day of the 44th Annual United States Sailboat Show. Made me a bit teary.
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of ground white pepper
1.5 lb Gruyere, grated (about 5 cups)
1/2 cup Parmesan
16 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
1 lb sliced ham
Preheat your oven to at least 400 degrees to toast your bread. Your galley stove will not likely fit 16 pieces of bread in one layer, so you’ll have to rotate. (Croque Monsieur pour quatre would be preferable!)
Grate 1.5 lb of Gruyére cheese or the equivalent of 5 cups and set aside.
Meanwhile, in the cockpit…
…the sailors decide to haul up to 8 knots.
Next, make your béchamel.* Melt butter, whisk in flour and stir constantly for about a minute. Gradually add the milk (best results if the milk is hot. But that requires another burner, another pan…) and whisk until thickened. Turn off the burner. Stir in the salt, pepper, nutmeg, parmesan, and 1/2 cup of Gruyere.
*Note: making a béchamel in a kitchen can be tricky. Making a béchamel on a 20 degree heel is even trickier. Galley belt and fully gimbaled stove required this day.
Under the Bay Bridge we go.
Lightly brush half the toasted breads with mustard, add a couple slices of ham to each, and sprinkle with half the remaining Gruyere. Top with another piece of toasted bread.
Slather the tops with the cheese sauce, sprinkle with the remaining Gruyere, (oops…forgot that part!) and bake the sandwiches at least 350 degrees for 10 minutes.
If your galley oven has a broiler, (many Force 10s do), now is the time to light it. Your galley oven door will need to be open a crack. There should be a notch attached to the handle for this exact purpose. Broil for 8 minutes, or until the topping is bubbly and lightly browned. You will most likely need to rotate the sandwiches to get the direct heat of the broiler. Good luck with that. (as mentioned earlier, Croque Monsieur pour quatre would be preferable!)
Meanwhile, in the cockpit…
…the sailors decide it might be best to drop the hook in Whitehall Creek to have a leisurely lunch. Whew!
Final thoughts? I’ll never do this again. What was I thinking?