Saturday, January 30, 2010

Soup and Sandwich with a side of Home Depot

Last weekend we saw the movie "It's Complicated" remember? I won't spoil the plot for you but in one scene Merryl Streep makes a French dish that she learned to cook in Paris......Croque Monsieur (pronounced CROAK MONSYEEUR ...for those of you that don't know FRANCEY language). Although I sat through the entire movie stuffing myself with a massive amount of popcorn I couldn't help but have a craving for the famous Croque style sandwich. It's typically made with Ham, Gruyere Cheese, Butter and a Bechamel sauce and then toasted to perfection. Looked even more delectable on the big screen. I just had to have it this week! I am always stuck for dinner ideas and as you know I have been conducting my own "test kitchen" lately. I decided tonight was the night to try "croque monsieur" on my favorite victims, Steve, FO, MO and YO. So during my lunch hour I researched who could possibly make the best croque and came up with Julia Child, Emeril, Wolfgang Puck, Bobby Flay, Sara Moulton and finally my favorite Ina Garten A.K.A. the Barefoot Contessa. I went with Ina's recipe because A) She cooks with lots of fat and B) she cooks with lots of fat. Her creation was also the easiest to follow and to be honest you can't screw up this meal unless you change the recipe - so here you go:

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups hot milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch nutmeg
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 ounces baked Virginia ham, sliced but not paper thin
12 ounces Gruyere, grated (5 cups)
16 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed

Directions: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan and add the flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Slowly pour the hot milk into the butter–flour mixture and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thickened. Off the heat add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup grated Gruyere, and the Parmesan and set aside.To toast the bread, place the slices on 2 baking sheets and bake for 5 minutes. Turn each slice and bake for another 2 minutes, until toasted.Lightly brush half the toasted breads with mustard, add a slice of ham to each, and sprinkle with half the remaining Gruyere. Top with another piece of toasted bread. Slather the tops with the cheese sauce, sprinkle with the remaining Gruyere, and bake the sandwiches for 5 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the topping is bubbly and lightly browned. Serve hot.

Simple yes? First I asked Steve to buy ingredients - A bread, some ham and some cheese...oh and for me some turkey because I don't eat ham on a Friday night (Thursday maybe but definitely not Friday). He takes the shopping list and goes to Longo's, purchases the ingredients and then informs me that the sandwiches cost over $40 to make. What!!? You see..the issue was the cheese. Apparently gruyere is more expensive than beluga caviar but you can't substitute the gruyere for an imposter just doesn't work that way in France and this was French cooking at it's best even though it was just a stupid sandwich. I am so excited to make this meal I can hardly wait to get started. On my way home I receive the proverbeal phone call from YO. This is the call that I get almost every night. "Mom? What's for dinner?" asks YO. "We are having something good", I answer. YO never takes that response in stride. He continues to badger me until I release the menu information. "Tonight we are having French Food", I say. He is not amused. "French?.. that's gross", he states. My standard line is this.... "It's what we are having or you could always have Kraft Dinner". He will usually settle for the meal of the day but not without a grunt and if I witness this in person there is an eyeroll (not to be confused with an eggroll) that goes with the scenario as well. As I have told you in the past - if I put Sushi or Chinese food on the table every night he would be very happy. He does realize the need to expand his culinary horizons and eventually succumbs to my test kitchen creations. Back to the sandwich. If you read the recipe above you will notice that this recipe is based on three steps: A preparation of Bechamel Sauce, the assembly of the sandwich and a grilling/baking/broiling process. Mistake number one: Telling Steve that I need to make a sauce for the sandwich. He crosses that process off the list with the claim that "the boys won't like it" plus he's not into soggy bread. This deletion elimates 7 main ingredients off the list. What's left is this....your meat, your bread and your cheese. Basically without the bechamel step you have the Croque without the Monsieur. Translation? - a $40 grilled cheese sandwich. We assembly line 5 of them - grilled them - put them in the oven - served them with potatoes and Salad and came to the conclusion that the only thing that was French about this meal were the pomme frites otherwise known as the McCain FRENCH FRIES. I don't know if I have ever told you this but I am convinced that whatever I consume for dinner or before bed dictates the severity of two occurences: 1. I have really weird dreams and 2. I tend to snore more than I usually do. Based on last night, after downing Monsieur $40 Grilled Cheese Sandwich and a Cherry Hamantashen I had a vivid dream that I was on a cruise ship with BORAT. He and I were dancing and I actually found him attractive (sorry least this time I wasn't in the Congo being chased down by odd birds and engaged to George Clooney)

After a very non-traditional Friday night dinner it's time to tidy up and get ready to go out to my least favorite place on earth.....HOME DEPOT (HD). Steve has been renovating different portions of the house for what seems like the past 6 years and he waits until the last possible day in January to purchase the balance of products to qualify for the Home Renovation Tax Credit that we can take advantage of this year. Let's talk about that for a second. Steve is a great renovator. He practically lives in HD. He can tear down walls, do plumbing, electricity, carpentry - you name it, he can do it. The only problem takes years before the PROJECT is completed. Yes, that's what I said ....days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months and before you can blink an eye it's been a year since the "project" began. There are no deadlines with his PROJECTS. Maybe a few near death experiences because of me standing near him with a hammer... but NO solid deadlines. Never ask your husband to start a project in the Spring. As the ground thaws and the possibility of sunshine and warmer days are near THE PROJECT becomes a REJECT and there are a mulitude of excuses that come with the changing weather patterns. Remember two summers ago? All that rain? I'm sorry. My fault. I used to pray for it everyday so the kid's bathroom would get finished - it only took Steve one year to do - I cried as much as it rained that Summer. Studies have shown that the highest divorce rate months are June, July and August or what is otherwise known as Golf season. On a brighter note for non-golfers it's the most popular time to get married - our wedding anniversary is in December - I wonder why.
ON one of the coldest nights of the year we are off to HD. I'm getting ready at our front door. Pull on my boots, apply a little lip gloss, fluff my hair and I'm psyched for the smell of lumber and plastic piping. I'm looking forward to getting our stuff and getting the heck out of there. There are certain aisles that I try to avoid at this store. I want nothing to do with Ball Cocks, Nuts, Knobs, Hardwood, Hoses and Strippers. I tend to be more focused on the pretty aisles - lighting - vanities - mirrors and I'm okay with window fashions. I never have a good time at this store.... perhaps it's from my past traumatic experiences there.....I think I am still recovering from last year when Steve locked me inside a shower stall and left. I am happy to say I didn't get locked in anything during this shopping trip although Steve was tempted. At one point he tried to hide from me but I found him on the floor next to the taps.

We had a successful night and made our way to the cash register - self checkout aisle. Who has used the self-checkout? What's with the lady inside the register telling you to "please place the item in the bag" when you have a giant item such as a Refrigerator or a piece of LUMBER? Are you going to place that in a bag? I don't think so. I also can't understand why the microscopic invisible cashier lady asks you to remove the last item as it is of "unknown nature". Why is it UNKNOWN? I know what it is so I start shouting at the screen - "the last item is a light switch! "Why don't you show your face and see for yourself !!!!"

The lady continues to natter at me....."Please place the item in the bag" "Please remove the item from your bag" "Please check the item you have placed on the scanner" "Please wait for assistance" "Please continue your transaction" "Please select your payment type" "Please remove your items" "Please don't remove your items until you have paid" "Please swipe your card or insert cash" "Please swipe your card again as the card reader didn't read your card" "Please wait for assistance again because you are a NAR" "Please key in your 4 digit password" "Please wait for assistance" "Please select CASH back or press NO THANKS" "Please take your items and have a nice day" and PLEASE DON'T EVER SHOP HERE AGAIN unless you go to a LIVE person wearing an orange apron who can help you with your purchase. THANK YOU FOR SHOPPING in HD !

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