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One French word: pain, a French recipe: croque-monsieur

Pain (masculine noun, le pain, un pain, des pains) = bread (pronounced pan, but light on the n)

Pain quotidien, daily bread, in the prayer; long comme un jour sans pain, literally as long as a day without bread, in other words very long, in the sense of time, not yards and inches; gagner son pain, to earn one’s bread; avoir du pain sur la planche, to have a hard job ahead; there are so many phrases using the word that I prefer to give you a link so that you can discover more.

My recipe for today is croque-monsieur, untranslatable, a sort of toasted sandwich which is much eaten as a snack or at lunchtime in cafés.

Croque monsieur



You will need the following ingredients for one person:

  • 2 slices of bread (sliced bread is easiest as the slices are regular and large, white or wholemeal)
  • A little butter
  • 1 thick slice of ham
  • Some béchamel sauce (see recipe on day 10). For one person you hardly need a half quantity of the recipe.
  • A large handful of good quality grated cheese (gruyère, emmenthal, comté, abondance are French cheeses to use)
  • A little strong mustard



  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Start by making a very small quantity of béchamel, see recipe Day 10 (halve the quantities, unless you are making croque-monsieur for 4 people, in which case make the whole quantity). It must be thick.
  3. Butter both slices of bread lightly on both sides.
  4. Sprinkle one side of the first slice liberally with grated cheese and place the slice of ham on top. Spread a little strong mustard on top of the ham.
  5. Place the second slice on top of the ham to make a sandwich.
  6. Spread a layer of béchamel about 3mm (1/8 inch) on top of the second slice, and add a generous handful of grated cheese.
  7. Heat a frying pan, and fry for 2-3 minutes until the bottom slice of bread is golden.
  8. Place on a double layer of foil paper and put into the oven for about 15 minutes, keep your eye on it, the cheese should be well toasted and the béchamel bubbling. You can light the grill for the last couple of minutes.

Serve with a green salad.

There are all sorts of variations of this century-old recipe. You may toast the bread lightly before making the sandwich. You can add chopped egg inside. You can use gammon and pineapple. A thick slice of cheese (reblochon in France) instead of the béchamel.

Marcel Proust even talks of this dish in his famous novel “A l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs”: “Or, en sortant du concert, … nous nous étions arrêtés, ma grand-mère et moi, pour échanger quelques mots avec Mme de Villeparisis qui nous annonçait qu’elle avait commandé pour nous à l’hôtel des croque-monsieur et des oeufs à la crème.” (I’ll leave you to translate, it can be your homework for today!)

Bon appétit.


About OneFrenchWord

I was a professional linguist and have been a life-long foodie. I am now lucky enough to be retired and free to roam the beaches around my home at the tip of the Finistère (Brittany, France). Writing is occupying a larger place in my life, with this blog and a children's book in preparation. I shall feel much happier calling myself a writer when I have published a book. And so posts on OneFrenchWord will be published first as an e-book, my ambition being to see a glossy volume on French language and cuisine in print some day. So keep reading, and snap up the book when it appears!

5 responses »

  1. marshmallowfluffxo

    sounds delicious! I love bread.

  2. Wow, this is so delicious sounding, I want to run out, buy the ingredients, and make it!!!

  3. Thank you! Not three star gastronomy, but delicious nevertheless!

  4. Il y a une faute je crois, sur l’extrait de littérature à la fin : “qu’elle avant commandé…” should be “avait” non? Sinon super blog !

    • Merci, Jean-Luc. C’est corrigé sur l’original grâce à vous! J’ai beau lire, relire, re-relire, il y a tjrs, semble-t-il qqchose qui passe à travers les mailles du filet. Je pense que vous êtes parmi les très rares français à me lire, votre “super blog” me touche vraiment! J’espère que vous me suivrez (cliquez en haut à gauche + follow), cela me ferait réellement plaisir.


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