How A Mistake May Have Created The First Croque Monsieur

Found in bistros and brasseries across Paris, the classic French sandwich, the croque monsieur, has been satisfying people's hunger for about a hundred years, per Allrecipes. The classic sandwich is baked and broiled with toasted white bread, ham, and Gruyère cheese. Before it is baked, the bread may be covered in béchamel sauce or dipped in a beaten egg. Another common way to prepare a croque monsieur is in a frying pan. In her version of croque monsieur, shared by the Food Network, Ina Garten adds some Dijon mustard and a touch of nutmeg. If you're having a hard time finding Gruyère, Martha Stewart says fontina or comte are great alternatives. 

According to Allrecipes, croque means "crunchy bite," and monsieur means "mister." A similar sandwich to the croque monsieur is the croque madame, which is the same except it's topped with a poached egg; the croque mademoiselle is a vegetarian version that nixes the ham and adds cucumber and chives (via Culture Trip). 

There are other "croque" sandwiches as well, says Snippets of Paris, such as croque Provençale with tomatoes, the croque Normand with potatoes and camembert cheese, croque Auvergnat that features regional blue cheese. However, before any of these versions of the croque monsieur, there was the original that may have been made entirely by chance.

Too close to the heat

The story goes that the first croque monsieur was created by accident when a worker placed a sandwich too close to a radiator, which melted the cheese and toasted the bread, according to Allrecipes. While this story may be apocryphal, the croque monsieur goes back at least as far as 1910, because they were listed by name on Parisian menus. Marcel Proust even mentioned the croque monsieur in his 1918 novel, "Search of Lost Time" (via Allrecipes)

So French reports that the first restaurant to serve a croque monsieur was located on the Boulevard des Capucines in the city of lights. However, peak popularity of the croque madame came later in the 1960s, per Snippets of Paris at the same time of the French women's liberation movement. 

While the croque monsieur may be a quintessential part of food culture in Paris, there's no reason you can't turn your kitchen into a quaint little French café and enjoy the cheesy, crunchy mister and misses with a latte or glass of wine.