Tag Archives: Gruyere cheese

Croque Monsieur, Madame & Provencal


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.


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.

Serves 2



Leek & Bacon Quiche

Quiche is probably one of the most versatile dishes around. It can be served for brunch, lunch or when paired with a crisp green salad, for dinner. It can be served hot, cold or at room temperature (which is my preferred serving temperature). And the fillings…..well the sky is the limit. The base is a simple combination of milk and eggs. From there you can go in a hundred different directions. My fillings will include whichever cheeses strike my fancy and whatever vegetables are in season. Meats are optional. So are herbs and spices. You really can’t go wrong.
This leek and bacon quiche has become a go to weeknight dinner for our family when time is limited yet a healthy sit-down dinner is a must. The combination of plenty of leeks and bacon make for a satisfying dish. I will bake it up earlier in the day then serve it at room temperature with the afore mentioned salad and dinner is good to go. And as an added bonus there are usually leftovers meaning you already have lunch made for the next day. What more could a busy family ask for?
2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese
8 ounces diced bacon
2 cups finely sliced leeks
1 1/2 cups whole milk
5 eggs
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
pinch dried mustard powder
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
salt and pepper to taste
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Prepare the crust of your choice.  Roll out the crust to fit a 10 inch deep dish pie crust.
  • Evenly distribute the shredded cheese over the bottom of the pie crust. 
  • Fry the bacon until crispy in a medium sized skillet set over medium heat. Drain with a slotted spoon then sprinkle evenly over the cheese.
  • Drain all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon grease from the skillet.
  • Add the leeks and saute until soft, about 4-5 minutes.
  • Add the leeks to the pie plate on top of the bacon.
  • Combine the milk, eggs, flour, dried mustard, thyme and salt and pepper in a large bowl.  Using a stick blender, blend the mixture until smooth and the flour is thoroughly incorporated into the liquids.
  • Pour the custard over the top of the leeks and bacon. Sprinkle with paprika.  
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes until a cake tester inserted into the center of the quiche is clean.  Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes before slicing.
Serves: 6


Goat Cheese & Thyme Souffle


I’m always on the lookout for new side dishes and with this recipe from The Splendid Table I stumbled upon a sure winner. It is cheesy, flavorful and did I mention cheesy? I love cheese and if you do as well, you are sure to love this souffle. This souffle includes three cheeses, creamy and tangy goat cheese, mild Gruyere and a nutty Parmesan. I like this combination but I’ve also experimented with other combinations as well, a small amount of gorgonzola pairs well with mild and slightly firm fresh ricotta and a sharp cheddar is nice with Asiago. Feel free to experiment to find the combination you like best.

Souffles look and sound impressive but in reality they are such an easy dish to make. The key to a perfectly light souffle, however, is all in the timing. In order to be served at their most impressive best, you must serve them immediately. For this reason I like to serve souffles with grilled or roasted meat. While the meat is resting I put the souffle in the oven then begin carving minutes before I remove the souffle from the oven. This results in a perfectly executed souffle every time!


6 tablespoons butter, divided

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup milk

2 baby carrots

1 small onion, quartered

5 black peppercorns

1 sprig of thyme

1 bay leaf

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

5 large eggs, separated

4 oz goat cheese,  crumbled

3/4 cup Gruyere cheese, finely grated

Parmesan cheese, finely grated

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/8 teaspoon cream of tarter

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

  • Preheat the oven to 450°F.
  • Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter then generously brush it onto the bottom and sides of a 12 in shallow oval dish. Set aside.
  • Place the cream and milk into a saucepan, add the carrot, onion, peppercorns, and thyme.
  • Bring slowly to a boil, and then set aside to infuse for 10 minutes. Strain, discarding the solids.
  • Melt the remaining butter in a medium sized sauce pan.
  • Add the flour and cook for a two minutes.
  • Whisk in the strained cream and milk and gradually bring to a boil, whisking until the sauce thickens. Cool slightly.
  • Add the egg yolks, goat cheese, Gruyére, and most of the Parmesan.
  • Season with the salt, cayenne and nutmeg.
  • Place the cream of tarter and the egg whites in a medium sized bowl and using an electric beater, beat the egg whites until stiff.
  • Fold the egg whites into the cream and milk mixture, mixing gently until they form a loose consistency.
  • Spoon the batter into the prepared dish, scatter the thyme leaves over the top and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes until the souffle is puffed up and golden but the center is still creamy.

Serves 6

Ham, Cheese & Asparagus Filled Crepes


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.

I love this dish. It can be the ultimate leftover meal–if as I do, you have pre-cooked ham and a stash of pre-made crepes sitting in your fridge or freezer–or you can make it completely from scratch. Made with leftovers it is the ideal “Fast Friday” dinner; not so much if you make all of the components from scratch at dinner time, but it is delicious just the same.

I love homemade crepes and when I make them, I usually make a double batch then stash the extra in the freezer for quick meals (like this one). If your crepes are frozen, simply let them defrost in the refrigerator during the day and then they will be ready for assembly once dinner time rolls around. And the ham? My family is a fan of spiral cut hams but even the smallest ones out there produce a lot of meat for a family of three. My solution is to enjoy a meal or two with the meat then cut it off the bone and freeze it for later use. Again, it is perfect for this meal.

To make this extra special, and decadent, top with a spoonful of hollandaise sauce. Now that is good.


1 bunch asparagus

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

8 crepes

16 slices pre-cooked ham

8 thin slices Gruyere cheese

  • Trim the asparagus and steam until just tender crisp. Drain and rinse under cold water. Set aside.
  • Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large non-stick skillet. Once the butter has melted, add the ham and saute until warmed through. Remove the ham from the skillet but do not clean it.

To assemble the crepes:

  • Lay one crepe on a flat surface and place a slice of cheese in its center.
  • Top with two slices of ham and then three or four spears of asparagus.
  • Fold the bottom quarter of the crepe up towards the center then fold the sides in. You want to form an envelope with its top kept open.
  • Move the filled crepe to a plate and place seam side down.
  • Repeat with the remaining crepes and filling.

To cook the crepes:

  • Melt the remaining butter in the skillet.
  • Working in two batches, place the crepes seam side down in the melted butter and saute for 3-4 minutes.
  • Carefully turn the crepes over and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.

Serves 4

Sausage Macaroni & Cheese Stuffed Squash

photo 5-12

Macaroni and cheese is perhaps the ultimate comfort food and because making it involves more of a method rather than an exact recipe, I’m always on the quest to find new versions of this oh-so-satisfying meal.  I am just as likely to serve macaroni and cheese at a formal, sit down dinner for guests as I am for casual dinners for my own family.  And I have yet to meet someone who isn’t a fan.  So you can imagine how excited I was when I came across an entire new cookbook dedicated to nothing but macaroni and cheese.  From classic renditions to new twists on an old favorite, Melt:  The Art of Macaroni & Cheese has it all.  There are so many options here that I almost didn’t know which one to try first.

But then I came across an intriguing option that stuffed this classic dish inside of a pumpkin.  I  loved it but not being able to find actual pumpkins here I put my own Albanian twist on the recipe by using a squash instead of pumpkin and mixing up the combination of cheeses to fit what I could find in the local stores.  (My squash looked like a green pumpkin but was definitely a squash).  My results were both tasty and impressive and I’m already thinking ahead to the next time I tweak the recipe even further……how about individual sized squashes stuffed with the creamy mac and cheese?  Or substituting the sausage with bacon and the Cheddar with a creamy gorgonzola?  For vegetarians I think a smoked gouda paired with meaty mushrooms would be delish!  The possibilities are endless and I bet my guests will love it!  In the mean time, here’s the single family sized version that my family devoured.


1 large squash, about 5 pounds

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 pound hot Italian sausage

4 ounces small macaroni of your choice

5 ounces Gruyère, cut into 1/4 inch cubes

2 ounces sharp Cheddar, cut into 1/4 inch cubes

3 scallions, diced

1 tablespoon freshly chopped rosemary

1 tablespoon freshly chopped thyme

1 tablespoon freshly chopped sage

1 cup heavy cream

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Cut off the top of your squash, as you would when you are carving a pumpkin, and scoop out as much of the seeds and strings as you can.
  • Sprinkle the inside of the squash with salt, pepper, and the sugar then replace the top.
  • Place in a rimmed baking dish and roast for 45 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat.  When the oil is hot, add the sausage to the pan and cook, crumbling the meat as you go, until the sausage is no longer pink.  Drain with a slotted spoon and place in a large mixing bowl.
  • Cook the macaroni according to the package instructions.  Only cook until the pasta is al dente then drain and move to the bowl with the sausage.
  • Add the cheeses, scallion, and chopped herbs to the bowl and toss well.
  • Remove the squash from the oven and loosely pack it with the macaroni and cheese mixture.
  • Pour the cream over the top of the macaroni and then replace the squash top.
  • Bake for a total of one hour, removing the squash top during the last 15 minutes of cooking.
  • For an impressive presentation, serve directly from the table being sure to scoop out the squash along with the macaroni.

Serves 4

French Onion Soup


Glenn loves French onion soup and orders it whenever it appears on a restaurant menu.  Unfortunately for him, we have yet to find it any where here in Albania so his  opportunities to enjoy it have been limited over the past couple of years.  Having recently (re)discovered my own oven-proof bowls, I decided to surprise him with a dinner of homemade French onion soup.

This recipe is from my go-to soup cookbook, Williams Sonoma’s Soup of the Day.  I’ve discovered that the key to a good soup is starting with a good quality base.  Because meat bones are readily available at all the local butchers and it is so difficult to find good quality and low sodium broths and stocks here I opted to make my own.  I particularly like Martha Stewart’s but if you are short on time or have good quality store bought ones available to you, skip this step.


3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 1/2 pounds yellow onions, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon sugar

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 cups dry white wine

8 cups beef broth or stock

1 bay leaf

6 slices thickly cut country-style bread

3 cups shredded Gruyere cheese

  • In a large, heavy skillet, melt the butter with the oil over medium-low heat.
  • Add the onions and sugar and season with salt and pepper.  Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are meltingly soft, golden, and lightly caramelized, about 25-30 minutes.
  • Add the wine, raise the heat to high,and cook until the liquid is reduced by about half, 8-10 minutes.
  • Add the broth and bay leaf, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer, uncovered, until the soup is dark and fully flavored, about 45 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 400.  Arrange the bread slices on a baking sheet and toast, turning once, until golden, 3-5 minutes per side.  Set aside.
  • Remove and discard the bay leaf.  Ladle the soup into ovenproof bowls arranged on a large rimmed baking sheet.
  • Place a piece of toast on top of the soup in each bowl and sprinkle with the cheese.  Bake until the cheese is fully melted and the toasts are slightly browned around the edges, about 15 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Serves 6

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