Though you may be planning to take your mom out to dinner on May 8 for Mother’s Day, why not start her day out right with homemade brunch and a bottle of sparkling wine? An elegant, but easy-to-prepare morning meal is an extra way to show your appreciation, and children of almost any age can pitch in.
Try this recipe for croque monsieur, a dressed-up ham-and-cheese sandwich that's a staple of Parisian café menus. Brioche, good-quality ham and aged Gruyère cheese add style, and a topping of mustard-inflected béchamel sauce and more Gruyère, quickly broiled, gives it additional depth and richness. This calls out for a crisp, fruit-inflected foil like one of the sparkling wines from the United States, Italy and Spain suggested below. All deliver excellent quality at very reasonable prices.
For a full brunch, add a salad of raw escarole and grapefruit segments, dressed with Champagne vinaigrette, and perhaps a well-made espresso, and you've started Mother's Day on a delicious note. (Just don't forget to wash the dishes while mom takes a well-deserved break.)
• 5 to 6 tablespoons butter, softened
• 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
• 1 cup milk
• 1 tablespoon prepared yellow or brown mustard, plus more for serving
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 6 ounces aged Gruyère cheese, coarsely grated (equal to about 2 1/2 cups, loosely packed)
• 8 slices brioche (or other bread with a dense crumb), each about 1/2-inch thick
• 4 thin slices ham
1. Preheat the oven's broiler and arrange a rack about 3 inches from the heat source.
2. In a small, heavy-bottomed pot, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat until it foams and subsides. Add the flour and whisk it in to the butter to blend. It will form a semi-solid paste in the pan. Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon and let it cook about 3 minutes, until the mixture is slightly golden and fragrant. Whisk in the milk, mixing until the flour and butter mixture has been incorporated, then switch to stirring with a wooden spoon, making sure to stir into all parts of the pot so that no clumps of flour and butter mixture remain unincorporated. Continue to stir until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of the wooden spoon. As this is a small batch of béchamel, the thickening should happen fairly quickly, within 3 minutes. Stir in the mustard, then season the béchamel with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in about 1/2 cup of the cheese, remove from the heat and set the sauce aside.
3. Spread one side of each of the slices of bread with butter. You should use about 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter for all 8 slices. Place one slice, butter side down, on your work surface. Cover the unbuttered side of the bread with a layer of cheese, then a slice of ham, then another slice of bread, buttered side up. Repeat this process with the remaining bread, ham and cheese so that you have four sandwiches ready to cook.
4. Heat a cast-iron pan or non-stick griddle over medium-high heat. Add a small knob of the remaining butter (about the size of a fingernail) to the pan, then carefully add one or more sandwiches, depending on the size of the pan. Cook for about 3 to 5 minutes, until the bread is browned, then carefully turn and cook on the other side. Remove the cooked sandwiches to a sheet tray or broiling pan and repeat the process with the remaining sandwiches and butter.
5. Spread the top of each sandwich with an even layer of béchamel, about 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons per sandwich. Place the sandwiches under the broiler for about 3 to 5 minutes, until the béchamel is browned and bubbling. Remove from the heat and serve immediately, with a knife and fork, and more mustard alongside.
6 RECOMMENDED SPARKLING WINES
Note: The following list is a selection of wines from recently rated releases from the United States (California, Oregon and New Mexico), Italy and Spain. More sparkling wines can be found in our Wine Ratings Search.
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