Coccante Signore: The Crispy Mister

You’d have to pry that grilled steak from my hungry, greedy hands. There are too many reasons to keep my meats, starting with braised pork belly and ending with the sizzle of a perfectly grilled Porterhouse.

How can I dream of giving that up, even in the name of a lighter grocery bill and healthier body?

My friend, Kim O’Donnel, has been hosting “Meatless Mondays” for the past few years, featuring a vege-friendly recipe and discussion. Each week I vow to participate. If I can’t become a vegetarian, perhaps I can be one just part-time? Once a week isn’t that big of a deal, right?

A few months ago, I met food writer Joy Manning on Twitter. Her avatar is a blurred out photo of her face, not because she’s funny looking or anything, but because she’s an important restaurant critic in Philadelphia and she doesn’t want to be recognized by restaurant staff. –side note- I don’t get the whole disguise thing for restaurant critics…I mean, it’s all about the free desserts, right? Kidding. Totally kidding.

Anyways, Joy and Tara Mataraza Desmond wrote a book called Almost Meatless for us vege-wimps. It’s not about finger-wagging, tsk-tsk-ness of many of the healthy eating cookbooks out there. Almost Meatless is cool with, “Hey, baby, I get it. You like meat, that’s all right. How about some recipes with a leeeeetle less meat but still all the flavor?”

I’m so down with that. I can totally do that.

But what is a Croque Monsieur in the first place?

It’s the French version of a grilled ham and cheese sandwich – the “croque” means  crispy – you know, the sound the grilled bread makes when you bite into it! It’s usually made with really good ham and Gruyere cheese. There are multiple varations of the Croque – including adding tomatoes (Croque Provencal); adding a fried egg on top (oh yum!) and even sweet/savory ones like an Apple and Crispy Sage Croque.

This Italian-ish riff on the Croque Monsieur is playfully called The Croccante Signore. Instead of French bread, I used an Italian Ciabatta…and instead of ham, the lovely, salty prosciutto takes its place.

Coccante Signore: The Crispy Mister Recipe

Recipe adapted from Almost Meatless by Joy Manning and Tara Mataraza Desmond

I tinkered with the recipe and added a couple thick slices of fresh tomatoes and sub’d butter for the mayo. Couldn’t find caciocavallo cheese, but bought a big hunk of a soft cheese. Use any kind of cheese that’s melty (yeah, that’s a word). Just a word about the bread — the ciabatta that I used was a little too crusty – especially when we’re also griling the outside of the bread. Try using bread without so much crust – something with a big soft, holey surface area.

8 (1/2-inch) slices good bakery bread

4 teaspoons good-quality mustard (Dijon or other style)

4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto

4 ounces good melting cheese, sliced or grated

2 tablespoons butter, softened

8 slices tomato

1. Preheat a cast iron or other heavy pan over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes, or until hot. You can also use a Panini grill.

2. Spread one slice of bread with mustard and layer on ¼ of the prosciutto, 2 slices of tomato, ¼ of the cheese. Top with another slice of bread. Spread a very thin layer of butter on the outside of the sandwiche, as you would butter the bread for a grilled cheese sandwich. Repeat with remaining

3. Place 2 sandwiches in your heated pan (alternatively, you can use a Panini grill – just follow instructions for your grill) and do not disturb for 3 minutes, or until the cheese is beginning to melt and the bread is golden brown. Carefully flip over the sandwich to the other side.

4. Repeat with the remaining 2 sandwiches, making sure each rests for 5 minutes before cutting it. (If you cut them immediately, the cheese will run out of the sandwich.)


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