Classic or vegetarian, the croque-monsieur is making a comeback on the menu of trendy restaurants

With the great return of the brasserie spirit, the croque-monsieur continues to reinvent itself. Generous, it anchors itself in the era with its veggie variations.

In the era of gender fluid, the croque-monsieur does not seem destabilized. His very gendered name appears on the menu of many restaurants, including that of the Bellanger brasserie in Paris. Like the very popular Dubillot and Martin establishments, it is the property of the Nouvelle Garde group, which has made it its mission to dust off French tradition.

“After sausage and mash, the croque-monsieur is the dish that works best,” enthuses Charles Perez, co-founder of the group. For us, it is a must: it is, like egg mayonnaise or tartare, a brasserie classic. And, it’s clearly a “product” dish. Because the secret of a good croque-monsieur is not the recipe, it’s good bread – ours comes from Thierry Breton –, good ham – we get our supplies in the Tarn, but soon, thanks to our new laboratory within the Martin brewery, we are going to make our own ham – and good cheese – it is the Frescolet cheese dairy, in Pigalle, which takes care of our selections. At home, we add béchamel, and we serve our croque-monsieur with homemade fries and salad. Suffice to say that it makes a real meal, and that for 10 €. Because that is also what explains its success: it is accessible. For me, it’s the equivalent of ham and butter for seated catering!”

Croque Madame. Bernhard Winkelman

“The croque is unifying”

This comparison fits perfectly with the legend of the croque-monsieur. It was born in 1910 on the grand boulevards of Paris, where a certain Michel Lunarca, owner of the bistro Le Bel Age, for lack of chopsticks for his ham snacks, had to use sandwich bread which he put in the oven to add crisp. To an intrigued customer, he would have said that the filling was made of human flesh: “It’s gentleman’s meat!” The joke attracted the curious and his sandwich with the perfect name of croque-monsieur was put on the menu the next day. The success has never wavered.

The secret to a good croque-monsieur is not the recipe, it’s good bread, good ham and good cheese

Charles Perez, co-founder of the Nouvelle Garde group

“The croque is unifying, continues Charles Perez. There is not a tourist who does not know what it is, and both adults and children love it. The only ones who don’t want it are vegetarians… So we offer a veggie croque!” Inside the bread, no eggplant or zucchini instead of ham, but extra cheeses: Comté AOP is supplemented with cheddar, Morbier AOP from La fruitière Lavigny and, for the “vegetables” touch, a stewed onions. We are always in the invigorating! And this is one of the major characteristics of this specialty that can now be found in all sauces. Because, if two clans have been fighting each other for more than a century – one advocating the addition of béchamel, the other defending 100% cheese – and amateurs who care little about the rules have garnished it with pineapple, tomatoes and mozzarella, or even goat cheese and honey, everyone agrees that a croque-monsieur is two slices of bread – otherwise, it’s toast – and a generous filling. What to make a unique dish.

Bellanger Brewery, 140, rue du Faubourg-Poissonnière, 75010 Pariss. newguardgroup.com

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