A croque monsieur (French pronunciation: [kʁɔk məsˈjøː]; French for "mister crunch") is a baked or fried boiled ham and cheese sandwich. The dish originated in French cafés and bars as a quick snack. A croque madame is a version of the dish topped with a fried egg.
The name is based on the verb croquer ("to bite, to crunch") and the word monsieur ("mister"). The sandwich's first recorded appearance on a Paris café menu was in 1910. Its earliest mention in literature appears to be in volume two of Proust's In Search of Lost Time in 1918.
A croque monsieur is traditionally made with boiled ham between slices of brioche-like pain de mie topped with grated cheese and slightly salted and peppered, which is baked in an oven or fried in a frying pan. The dish can also be made with normal butter bread,[clarification needed] with a soft crust. Instead of the butter bread, the bread may optionally be browned by grilling before being dipped in beaten egg. Traditionally, Emmental or Gruyère is used, or sometimes Comté cheese as well. Some brasseries also add Béchamel sauce.
A croque monsieur served with a poached or lightly fried egg on top is known as a croque madame (or in parts of Normandy a croque-à-cheval). Many dictionaries[who?] attribute the name to the egg resembling an old fashioned woman's hat. According to the Petit Robert dictionary, the name dates to around 1960. The name croque-mademoiselle is associated with its lighter, vegetarian version: made of the same bread, but with ordinary melting cheese, accompanied with chives, cucumber and salad.
A ham and cheese sandwich snack, very similar to the croque-monsieur though not containing any béchamel or egg, is called a tosti in the Netherlands, and toast (pronounced "tost") in Italy and Greece. Similarly, in the United Kingdom a ham and cheese hot snack is called a 'toastie', and toastie makers are available to buy. In the United States, the Monte Cristo, a ham-and-cheese sandwich often dipped in egg and fried, is popular diner fare, and a 'grilled cheese sandwich' is a classic sandwich that has been enjoyed at home and in cafeteria-style restaurants since the Great Depression. A version of this sandwich in Spain replaces the ham with sobrassada, a soft sausage from the Balearic Islands that can be easily spread. In Catalonia it is known as a bikini.
Versions of the sandwich with substitutions or additional ingredients are given names modelled on the original croque-monsieur, for example:
The noted French chef Jacques Pepin also makes a version using chicken instead of ham, which he demonstrated in the "Our Favorite Sandwiches" episode on the PBS series (and its coordinating cookbook of the same title) Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home in which he worked with Julia Child.