This is one of those dishes we discovered while we were in San Francisco. Right around the corner from our hotel was a small French bakery, Le Marais Bakery & Bistro, where we stopped several times. One time, we picked up a couple of croissants as we headed down to the wharves, and another time we sat outside and each had a Croque Forestière. They were so good that we promised ourselves that we’d recreate them at home.
What’s a Croque Forestière? Translated from French, Croque Forestière means something like “forest snack,” which might sound as if we’re making something involving twigs and leaves, but, really, it’s basically a grilled cheese sandwich with mushrooms and Mornay Sauce (now you know why we told you how to make that yesterday). If that sounds good, let’s scratch up a couple!
For the bread, we used slices from a freshly-made batch of Easy Rye Bread with onions and caraway seed. While we don’t expect you to go to that trouble just for these sandwiches, we think this will be best with a nice rustic style bread. We do know that they’re also made with brioche bread, which is nearly the opposite in terms of texture. We suggest using gruyere cheese, or comte, or something that has a strong flavor. Melted cheese seems to have less flavor, so strong flavors are warranted. And, use a good quality cheese — we didn’t, unfortunately, because we’d made the mistake of picking up a package of “processed” gruyere, which we didn’t notice until we got home. Lesson learned!
Procedure in detail:
Heat Mornay sauce. If you made your Mornay sauce earlier in the week, or even earlier in the day, you’ll probably want to warm it up a bit. So, place some in a small skillet over low heat. We suggested about a third of a cup, but, basically, you want enough to cover the sandwiches. Stir the sauce occasionally while it warms.
Sauté mushrooms. Place the butter in a large skillet (or on a griddle) over medium heat. Once melted and a bit foamy, add the mushrooms and sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper. Let them sauté for a few minutes without moving them, until they’ve browned a bit, then flip and cook the other side for about the same amount of time.
Grill sandwiches. Push the mushrooms off to the side of the skillet. Add a bit of butter, if what you were using was all absorbed by the mushrooms, and put down two slices of bread, topped with your cheese. Scoop some mushrooms (don’t use them all) on top of the cheese, and cover with the remaining bread slices. Place any extra mushrooms in the Mornay sauce. Continue cooking the sandwiches until the bread is toasted on each side and the cheese is melted.
Plate and serve. To plate, place about a tablespoon of the Mornay sauce in the center of a plate, place a sandwich on top, and scoop the remaining Mornay sauce over the top. Finish with a good grind of pepper from one corner of the sandwich to the other. Serve immediately.
These aren’t for everyday, but, then, we don’t think even grilled cheese sandwiches are for everyday, either. But, they are great, although quite messy. Since we use a crusty bread, it’s difficult to cut through the bread, but, oh, so worth it to have a bit of grilled cheese covered in cheese sauce. While we probably wouldn’t make Mornay sauce just for Croque Forestière, we think they’re good enough that, when we make Mornay sauce, we’ll save a bit for the next day’s lunch. Four stars.