It’s Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing I want to do is cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.
One sandwich served three different ways. Its a staple of French bistros and makes for the perfect snack, lunch or light dinner. Its a go-to dish that pleases just about everyone. And as such, it has become my own go-to dish to make at home as well as a reliable dish to order from restaurant menus. What it is? It’s a Croque Monsieur–or Madame or Provencal–if you like.
The concept is simple, take good quality ham and cheese, layer it on bread that has been brushed with bechamel sauce and grill it. Add a slice of tomato to make it Provencal or top it with a sunny side up to turn it into a Madam. It’s a sandwich that is meant to be eaten with a knife and fork and tastes perfect when washed down with a cool glass of Rose wine. Its so easy and so good. So go ahead and make yourself one tonight.
CROQUE MONSIEUR (or MADAME or PROVENCAL)
To make the bechamel sauce:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1 bay leaf
Salt & pepper to taste
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan set over medium heat.
- Add the flour and whisk for 1 minute.
- Gradually whisk in the milk, then add the ground nutmeg and bay leaf.
- Increase the temperature to high and whisking constantly, boil until the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper.
For the sandwiches:
4 slices white sandwich bread
4 ounces thinly sliced Black Forest ham
4 ounces sliced Gruyère cheese
1 tablespoon melted butter
1/4 cup grated Gruyère cheese
2 slices tomato (optional)
2 eggs, cooked sunny side up (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Spread the bread slices with the bechamel sauce, making sure to extend the sauce all of the way to the edges.
- Place two slices of bread, bechamel side up, on a parchment lined baking sheet.
- Top with the ham and half of the cheese. Add the tomato, if using.
- Top with the remaining slices of bread, bechamel side up, then top with the remaining cheese.
- Bake the sandwiches until the cheese is brown and bubbling, about 10 to 15 minutes.
- If you are making Croque Madams, cook the eggs in a hot skillet coated with non-stick cooking spray.
- When the sandwiches are toasted, slide the eggs on top of the sandwiches and serve immediately.
Here is a new twist on a childhood classic and these sandwiches certainly aren’t the Manwiches you grew up with. The recipe comes from Ming Tsai’s Blue Ginger Restaurant and combines the best of Asian flavors in a fun form. Sambal Oelek is a spicy chile sauce which adds zip to any dish. If you aren’t familiar with it, try a bit before adding it to your meat mixture. I love it but it is spicy so a little goes a long way. Three tablespoons might add too much spice for your family so add less (or more) if you prefer.
The recipe calls for using a mixture of ground pork and ground chicken but feel free to substitute ground turkey or lean beef if you prefer. You can serve these sandwiches as bite sized sliders or as full-sized sandwiches for a quick dinner. Like their namesake, these sandwiches are messy so put plenty of napkins on the table, use a fork and knife if you prefer, and dig in. These are a new family favorite in our house.
ASIAN SLOPPY JOES
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 medium red onions, finely chopped
1 cup celery, finely chopped
3 tablespoons Sambal Oelek
3 tablespoons garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground pork
1 pound lean ground chicken
1 cup Hoisin sauce
1 cup canned diced tomatoes, drained
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
8 large or 20 small rolls, split
- In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat until it shimmers.
- Add the onions, celery, Sambal Oelek, garlic, ginger, salt, and pepper. Combine all of the ingredients then cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, about 8 to 10 minutes.
- Add the ground pork and chicken and cook for 5 minutes or until the meat is no longer pink. Use a wooden spoon to break up the meat.
- Stir in the Hoisin sauce, tomatoes, and lime juice and bring to a boil.
- Simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes or until the mixture has thickened.
- Season with salt and pepper if necessary.
- Serve on top of the rolls.
Yields: 8 large or 20 small sandwiches
Sometimes all you want for dinner is a sandwich. I know in my family sandwiches area a favorite dinner and grilled cheese are by far the most requested option. But because they are dinner, you want the sandwiches to be both filling and satisfying, holding you over until breakfast the next morning. My answer is these cheese sandwiches that are filled with other tasty additions; tomatoes, avocado and bacon sandwiched between cheese and bread are sure to satisfy. Using two different types of cheese in my sandwiches. Here I’ve used cheddar and Gouda but other favorite combinations include Jarlsberg and cheddar or Colby and Swiss. For added interest you could add a bit of shredded Asiago or Parmesan or experiment with any combination of the good local cheeses that are out there. Any way you make it, these definitely aren’t the grilled cheese sandwiches of my childhood.
BACON, TOMATO & AVOCADO GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICHES
4 slices thick sliced sour dough bread, or another substantial bread of your choice
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
4 slices sharp cheddar cheese, or other cheese of your choice
4 slices Gouda cheese, or other cheese of your choice
4 slices thick cut bacon, cooked until crisp
1 avocado, pitted, peeled and sliced
1 ripe tomato, sliced
- Preheat a griddle or iron skillet over medium high heat.
- For each sandwich, place 2 slices of cheese onto 2 slices of bread.
- Top with half of the avocado, 2 slices of bacon then half of the tomatoes.
- Top with the remaining slices of cheese and the other slice of bread.
- Spread 1/4 of the butter onto the top of each slice of bread.
- Place the sandwiches, buttered side down onto the griddle. Carefully spread the remaining butter on top of the top slice of bread.
- Grill, until the bottom slice of bread is golden brown and the cheese has begun to melt about 6-7 minutes.
- Using a large spatula, carefully flip the sandwich over and continue to cook until the second side of the sandwich is golden brown and the cheese has melted, about 5-6 minutes.
- Remove from the griddle and slice in half before serving.
Yields: 2 sandwiches
It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.
For me, sandwiches are either a hit or miss proposition. They can make for a satisfying lunch or light dinner, especially when paired with a salad or a bowl of soup, but they must be done right. I love a combination of flavorful and interesting fillings but if the bread is disappointing, the entire sandwich loses its appeal. The type of bread I like varies depending upon the filling but for hearty or messy fillings, a crusty bread is a must.
This simple sandwich uses crusty rolls but a French baguette or ciabatta rolls would work as well. The bread is sturdy enough to absorb and contain the juices from the carmelized onions and makes the sandwich feel more substantial than it really is. You can eat the sandwich alone or pair it with a bowl of soup. Best of all, the sandwich is fast to make so you can be eating dinner in no time.
PROSCIUTTO, GOAT CHEESE, & CARAMELIZED ONION SANDWICHES
2 crusty rolls sliced, or the bread of your choice
2 medium-sized red onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar
4 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature
4 ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced
8 baby spinach leaves
- Place a small saute pan over medium heat. Add the oil and heat until shimmering.
- Add the onions, sprinkle with the sugar, and toss to coat.
- Cook the onions for 15 to 20 minutes until they brown and caramelize, tossing occasionally and adding a small amount of water if necessary. When they are cooked to your liking, remove them from the heat.
- Divide the goat cheese between the two rolls and spread to coat one half of each bread.
- Divide the onions and prosciutto evenly between the sandwiches. Top with the spinach leaves.
- Cut the sandwiches in half and serve immediately.
Yields: 2 sandwiches