Croque Monsieur with Pears and Chestnut Jam
Twice a month, we’ll pass along simple, seasonal dishes made with ingredients that can be found at your neighborhood market in a series we call Dish-trict Culinaire. This week, we cook up a classic comfort food and serve it up with an autumn slant.
15-ounce jar of roasted and peeled chestnuts (available at Whole Foods)
3 teaspoons of granular cane sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla
1/2 lemon juiced
2 pinches of kosher salt
water for boiling
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk, heated
pinch of nutmeg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 ounces Gruyère, grated (5 cups)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
16 slices of sourdough bread
2 Anjou pears, sliced thin
8 ounces of sliced deli ham
In a medium-sized pot, bring three quarts of water (or enough to cover the chestnuts) to a boil. Add the chestnuts to the pot, and simmer for approximately 40-45 minutes. Drain the chestnuts with a strainer, reserving two cups of water. Add your sugar, vanilla, lemon juice, and salt to the water and stir until dissolved. In a food processor, combine the water with the chestnuts, and puree until smooth. Return the mixture to the same pot previously used and simmer the puree for an additional 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let your jam sit.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
For the cheesy sauce (called a “mornay”), you’re going to start by melting the butter over low heat in a small saucepan. Add the flour and begin stirring with a wooden spoon for about 2 minutes. The butter and flour mixture is called a “roux”, and is what will give your sauce some body. Slowly pour in your heated hot milk to the roux, whisking until the sauce is thickened. Remove the sauce from heat, and mix in the remaining ingredients: salt, pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup grated Gruyère, and the Parmesan. Let the sauce sit.
On a sheet pan, toast the sourdough slices in the oven, about 4-5 minutes. You’re going to want to make sure the slices have some crunch to them, so that they can stand up to the cheese sauce without getting soggy.
Lightly brush half of the slices with mustard. Add a slice of ham, a layer of pears, and sprinkle with half of the remaining Gruyère. For the other 8 slices, slather a healthy portion of chestnut jam, and then combine to make a sandwich. Smother the tops with your mornay and sprinkle on the remnants of Gruyère. Bake the sandwiches for 5 minutes, then turn your broiler to high and broil until the topping is bubbling and lightly browned, about 3-5 minutes.