PASCAL Aussignac has held a Michelin star for 18 years at Club Gascon in London, where you could pay £110 (RM594) for a tasting menu featuring the finest ingredients from southwest France. He studied under some of the greatest chefs in France, including Guy Savoy.
But catch Aussignac on his night off and this cheerful and friendly chef is happiest eating snacks such as croque monsieur, the toasted ham-and-cheese sandwich that is one of his homeland’s greatest culinary exports.
“Croque monsieur is luxury toast that takes a bit of care,” he says. “It is what you pamper yourself with when you go to a hotel somewhere around the world, or you prepare at home to treat someone. It’s comfort food, like a French burger.”
He’s produced a recipe for Bloomberg, jettisoning the usual béchamel in favour of something lighter, he says. I’m not personally convinced that light is the right word for any recipe featuring double cream, cheese, butter and white bread, but let’s put that thought to one side.
I tried cooking it at home and this croque monsieur is both easy to make and full of flavour.
When it comes to the cheese, Aussignac favours Gruyère and Ossau-Iraty, an ewe’s-milk variety. He says it’s fine to substitute any cheese you like, though he’d avoid Cheddar because it is such a common part of ham-and-cheese sandwiches. And you’ll need cheeses that will melt, so halloumi wouldn’t be ideal.
During the coronavirus lockdown, Aussignac is offering dishes-to-go at his Comptoir Gascon bistro. Croque monsieur isn’t currently on the menu, but it may be soon. He says he is now feeling inspired by his own recipe, and may add it in coming weeks. — Bloomberg
- Richard Vines is chief food critic at Bloomber
Aussignac’s Croque Monsieur
- Ingredients (for 4 servings)
- 8 slices of white sourdough bread
- 50g (13⁄4 oz) of soft salted butter
- 8 slices of good quality jambon blanc (or any good-quality gammon)
- 8 slices of Ossau Iraty (or Comté) cheese 100g of grated Gruyère cheese
- 4 dessertspoons of double cream
- 1 dessertspoon of Dijon mustard Salt/pepper/Piment d’Espelette
- 4 guindillas (or other hot pepper such as Scotch bonnet)
- Preheat the oven on grill position.
- Lightly pan fry the bread. When cool, brush with butter.
- Mix in a bowl the cream, mustard and grated cheese; season with salt, pepper and Espelette.
- Lay the slices of ham and cheese on your bread, sprinkle with chopped guindillas and cover with second slice of bread.
- Thickly spread the cream mixture on top.
- Leave them in the oven — or under the grill — for about 10 minutes or until golden brown.
- A croque monsieur made by the author using Aussignac’s recipe