Truffled Croque Monsieur

This “everyday” French sandwich with truffles was popularized by chef Michel Rostang and remains a part of his spectacular truffle menus each winter in Paris. I also sampled a more rustic—and equally spectacular—version of this opener at one of my favorite Paris restaurants, Bistrot Paul Bert, where owner Bertrand Auboyneau always surprises us with new and unexpected treats.

8 servings

Equipment: A small jar with a lid; a mandoline or a very sharp knife

1 fresh black truffle (about 1 ounce; 30 g), cleaned
8 thin slices Brioche
1 tablespoon (15 g) Truffle Butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon (15 g) Clarified Butter (recipe follows)
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

1. With a vegetable peeler, peel the truffle. Mince the truffle peelings, place them in the jar, and tighten the lid. Reserve the peelings for another use. With the mandoline or very sharp knife, cut the truffle into very thin slices. The truffle should yield about 20 slices.

2. Butter one side of each slice of brioche with the truffle butter. Arrange 4 slices of brioche, buttered side up, side by side on a platter. Arrange 4 or 5 truffle slices side by side on top of each slice of brioche. Place another slice of buttered brioche, buttered side down, on top of each layer of truffles, to make a sandwich. Wrap each sandwich tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours and up to 24 hours.

3. At serving time, in a large skillet, melt the clarified butter and oil over medium heat. Add the sandwiches, in batches if necessary, and brown the bread on both sides until golden, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Cut each croque monsieur in half. Serve immediately.

What is clarified butter? And why bother? Clarified butter is butter that has the milk solids and water removed. This gives it a much higher smoking point than regular butter and lets you cook at a higher temperature without burning. Without the milk solids, clarified butter can also be kept fresher longer than non-clarified butter. I use it, often in conjunction with a touch of oil, when cooking foods that I want to sauté at a high heat without burning, such as the Truffled Croque Monsieur.

Makes about 6 tablespoons (3 ounces; 90 g)

Equipment: A double boiler or a microwave oven; a fine-mesh sieve; dampened cheesecloth
8 tablespoons (4 ounces; 120 g) unsalted butter

1. If you are using the double boiler, cut the butter into small pieces and place them in the top of a double boiler set over simmering water. When the butter has melted, raise the heat to moderate and let the butter simmer until it stops crackling, an indication that the butter is beginning to “fry.” Remove from the heat and let the residue settle to the bottom of the pan: there should be a layer of milk solids on the bottom and a layer of foam on top.

If you are using the microwave, place the butter in a 1 1/2-quart (1.5 l) microwave-safe dish. (Do not use a smaller container or the butter will splatter all over the oven.) Cover loosely with paper towels. Microwave at full power for 2 ½ minutes. Remove from the oven and let the residue settle to the bottom of the dish: there should be a layer of milk solids on the bottom and a layer of foam on top.

2. With a spoon, skim off and discard the top layer of foam. Line the sieve with the dampened cheesecloth, and slowly strain the melted butter into a container; discard the milky solids that remain. (Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.)

Wine Suggestion: A medium-bodied white wine is in order here. While one could splurge on Château de Beaucastel’s stunning Châteauneuf-du-Pape, we are never disappointed to sip the same winemaker’s simple white Perrin & Fils Côtes-du-Rhône Réserve Blanc, a crisp, finely acidic, and refreshing blend of Viognier, Roussanne, and Grenache Blanc.


Recipe from SIMPLY TRUFFLES, reprinted with permission from William Morrow Copyright © 2011 by Patricia Wells.