I had to sell Michael a bit on presenting a sandwich on television–never mind that plenty of television chefs do this all the time—because at first glance, it does seem kind of mundane. But considering that sandwiches are the most popular food to make for dinner, I felt that there could be a way to highlight a simple cooking technique with hundreds of later applications in the guise of a simple, French bistro-inspired meal.
Besides—it’s National Grilled Cheese Month—when better to showcase an elegant take on this classic?
I was really enthralled by our lovely Les Halles soup from our latest dinner and a movie, and I decided to take three of the elements—mushrooms, butter and sherry—and sauté them together to make a nice, meaty-but-meatless filling for what I suppose is a vegetarian alternative to the classic croque monsieur, which is normally made with ham. Pair this with our regularly-recurring Pastis-inspired salad, and you get a lovely combination that, served with a nice espresso or vin rouge, makes a satisfying, simple dinner.
As an added bonus, if you’re a novice cook, by trying your hand at sautéing here you’re opening up a world of applications for sautéed mushrooms, ranging from throwing in at the end of a risotto to making a delicious omelet, or as part of the filling for dynamite ravioli. (Michael here: saute first and ask questions later! the cooked mushrooms can be refridgerated for up to a week)
Vegetarian Croque Monsieur with Arugula-Parmesan Salad
For the sandwich:
- 1.5 lb cremini or button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
- 2 tbsp butter, preferably unsalted (but salted will work)
- About a ¼ cup of sherry or dry white vermouth
- 6 oz Gruyere cheese, grated
- 1 French baguette, sliced lengthwise
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
For the salad:
- 3 cups baby arugula, washed and patted dry with paper towels
- Juice of ½ lemon
- 2 Tbsp of olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup Parmigianno-Reggiano, grated
Set your oven to broil. In a sauté pan, melt the one tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat. When melted, add half the mushrooms, salt them, and using a spatula or wooden spoon, distribute them evenly to absorb the fat. As they cook down, push them to the outer rim of the pan and add the other half with the remaining butter. Add the sherry and continue to cook mushrooms until they are browned and tender—about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside in a bowl.
Take each half of your baguette and evenly distribute the mushrooms, then do the same with the grated cheese. Arrange both bread halves onto a baking sheet open face up and place under the broiler for about 2 minutes, or until the cheese melts and the bread is toasted. Place the top half of your bread over the cheese, slice into sections, and serve with the salad.
To make the salad: place washed and dried arugula into a bowl. Add the lemon juice and let sit for a few minutes so the acid can macerate the leaves. Add a large pinch of kosher salt (the salt will now dissolve into the juice) and dress with olive oil. Add black pepper to taste, and then just before tossing add the cheese—if you add it too quickly, the lemon juice will crush the cheese. Toss to combine and serve.