Challah Croque Monsieurs

Shabbat has simply become one of my favorite rituals to end the week. That being said, it has also sprung a new tradition for the morning after using my two favorite leftovers: challah and scraps from my always-present cheese boards. This past weekend I was blessed with two braided beauties and a pound of Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. Toma cheese, one of my new favorite snack cheeses with a buttery, grassy flavor. I knew immediately that these croque monsieurs were in my future.

A quick béchamel steeped with garlic and herbs is fortified with a handful of this versatile cow's milk cheese before getting schmeared on day-old challah. In addition to the classic ham, I add sliced apples for a tender, yet toothsome layer of sweetness, pairing perfectly with the creaminess of the Toma. The result is a baked sandwich that is truly as comforting as they come, begging for you to fry an egg and perch it on top.

This recipe is an any-time-of-day revelation. I hope you all croque.


Challah Croque Monsieurs

Yield: 9 sandwiches

Prep Time: 20 minutes, plus cooling time

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes, plus cooling time


Ingredients

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 garlic clove, finely grated

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 cups whole milk

1 thyme sprig, plus leaves for garnish

1 rosemary sprig

1 sage sprig

1 pound PRFCCo Toma cheese, grated and divided

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Eighteen ½-inch slices challah bread

1 pound sliced ham

1 Granny Smith apple, cored and thinly sliced

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400° and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter with the grated garlic over medium-high heat. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk until a paste forms and you’ve cooked out the raw flour taste, 2 minutes.

  2. Slowly whisk in the milk until incorporated. Add the thyme, rosemary and sage, then cook, stirring constantly until the béchamel has thickened, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir 1 cup of the grated Toma and the nutmeg. Adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper, then let cool slightly.

  3. Spread 1 heaping tablespoon of béchamel on both sides of each slice of bread. Divide the ham and apple slices between 9 bottom slices of bread. Sprinkle ¼ cup of the cheese over the ham and apples, then place the remaining slices of bread on top. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the sandwiches.

  4. Place in the oven and bake, rotating halfway through, until the bread is toasted and the cheese is bubbling and golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. Halve each sandwich and garnish with thyme leaves, then serve.