Spring is here and the temperatures of late can prove it. The mornings are brighter and the sun is setting later. The local farm markets have opened and new life is rising from the cool, damp earth.
In celebration of this tender time of the year, I’m sharing one of my favorite tartine recipes inspired by the season’s first harvest, Spring Croque Monsieur Tartine.
Asparagus is one the season’s earliest vegetables. My local farm market had a gorgeous bundle on display and spring onions with the most vibrant magenta-colored bulbs, or beards, and radishes still wet with rain.
To make my Spring Croque Monsieur Tartine, first prepare the vegetables by generously massaging them in olive oil, sprinkle them with kosher salt and roast in the oven for 15 minutes at 400 F. While that’s a perfect snack or side dish as-is, today we will make these veggies a bit more fancy, ready to adorn any brunch or lunch display.
Here’s a little aside, the recent release of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast completely slayed me. As if French culture and cuisine wasn’t exquisite enough, this film added a sweet dose of swoon-worthy enchantment. It captivated me and I’ve been finding fun little ways to create a feast (like my Savory French Leek Tart) that Mrs. Potts would be sure to approve of! I know, I know… I get carried away. I can’t help myself… have you seen this film
(twice, like me)?! It is everything.
So let’s have a little fun with this seasonal version of a traditional favorite, Croque Monsieur (French for “gentleman crunch”), a ham and cheese sandwich that has been baked or fried. Oh, and if the sandwich is topped with a fried egg? Well, then it’s called a Croque Madame, because the egg resembles a lady’s hat.
In my Spring Croque Monsieur Tartine, I’ve omitted the meat entirely and will use Mother Nature’s newest harvest of asparagus, spring onions and radishes. Feel free to use whatever seasonal vegetables you like, swap out one vegetable for another, omit one entirely, you get the idea.
This recipe is prepared tartine style, or open-faced. We’ll make a quick Mornay sauce (which is a basic bechamel sauce but with the addition of grated cheese). I use Gruyère or Comte cheese – if you follow me, then you know by now that these are my go-to favorites. If you prefer, you can just use a Bechamel sauce, that’s perfectly fine and equally delicious.
First, spread a nice layer of Mornay or Bechamel sauce onto toasted bread. Add the roasted spring vegetables, and top with grated Gruyère or Comte cheese, you could also use Swiss if you’d like. I personally like just a sprinkle of grated cheese in the sauce, saving more cheese to top off the bread. Then the whole thing goes under the broiler until the cheese is bubbling and turns golden brown.
If you have any leftover roasted veggies, they are delicious the next day slightly warmed through on thick, toasted, crusty bread with a layer of hummus. Or, toss with pasta in garlic oil and serve with a salad.
This tartine makes for a beautiful brunch or light lunch. Pair it with a side salad and white wine or champagne and you will be certain to impress your guests.
Speaking of guests, for a meal that your friends and family are sure to remember, channel your inner Lumiere (here I go again…) and belt-out your best rendition of “Be Our Guest” as you serve your company. A French accent is a must and dancing across the table, while recommended, is purely optional. No? A bit too much?
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Spring Croque Monsieur Tartine
1 loaf will make 6 generous slices
1 loaf of French bread, cut length-wise and sliced (yields 6 large slices) or any good rustic bread, thickly sliced
Asparagus, cleaned and ends trimmed
Spring Onions, cleaned and using just the white & light green or magenta colored parts for this recipe
Radishes, cleaned and ends trimmed and thinly sliced (I used a mandolin set on #2)
Mornay or Bechamel Sauce (recipe provided)
Grated Gruyère or Comté cheese
Garnish with fresh/dried thyme or parsley
For the Mornay or Bechamel Sauce:
1 cup of whole milk
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 cup of grated Gruyère or Comté cheese (only if choosing to make a Mornay sauce)
Salt & pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400 F.;
- Massage vegetables with olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt;
- Lay veggies on a baking tray and roast for 15 minutes, until tender;
- While the veggies are roasting, prepare the Mornay or bechamel sauce (recipe below);
- After roasting, set the broiler to high and broil each slice of bread for 1-2 minutes on each side until lightly toasted (don’t toast too much, remember the bread will go back under the broiler after the veggies are layered to melt the cheese and you won’t want burned bread);
- Generously spread Mornay or Bechamel sauce (recipe below) evenly on each slice of bread and top with a layer of roasted vegetables;
- Sprinkle vegetables with grated cheese and broil until the cheese is melted and turns a beautiful golden brown;
- Garnish with fresh or dried thyme or parsley, serve hot!
For the Mornay & Bechamel Sauce:
- In a small saucepan, heat milk and 2 bay leaves and garlic, bring to a gentle simmer (make sure not to scorch the milk);
- Melt butter over low heat in a thick bottomed sauce pan, just as the foam subsides add flour, stirring constantly with a whisk to prevent lumps, cook 2-3 minutes to remove the starchy taste, don’t brown the flour (that will make it bitter);
- Remove from heat;
- Using a slotted spoon remove the bay leaves (leave the garlic) from the milk and gradually add the warm milk to the flour mixture, whisking vigorously, return to heat and bring to a slow simmer, continue whisking, cooking for 5 minutes or until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon;
- If making a Mornay sauce, add cheese and stir until melted;
- Check seasoning, add salt and pepper if needed.
Bechamel or Mornay sauce can be store in freezer in ziplock bags for later use, or keep warm for use in dishes being currently prepared.
Recipe Adaptation Alexandra Cooks