Coccante Signore: The Crispy Mister

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What’s my position on meat? I love it. I crave meat and I probably eat too much of it.

that, and chocolate.

and coffee

oh yes, wine too.

To be healthier, I could give up some of the above.

But I can’t.

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.

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From the almost-meatless Almost Meatless cookbook, I chose to cook the Croccante Signore, Joy and Tara’s Italian version of a French Croque Monsieur, or a grilled cheese sandwich.

(loud whisper) it’s a fancy grilled cheese sandwich! With leeeeetle bit of MEAT!

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.

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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 1/4 of the prosciutto, 2 slices of tomato, 1/4 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.)

Who else makes Croque Monsieur?

Comments 24

  1. Jenny @ Nourished Kitchen

    Oh that looks so fantastic! A restaurant near my home makes something similar although I think they add a handful of baby spinach and a good drizzle of unrefined olive oil to the mix. Mouth-watering good.

    Oh yeah! Wow – baby spinach would have been fantastic in it! ~jaden

  2. Phoo-D

    What a great idea for a cookbook. I am always on the look out for recipes that will balance out our meat loving habits now and then. The sandwich looks comforting and delicious!

  3. Lizzie Longenecker

    That looks ludicrously delicious… why must you do these things to me, Jaden?

    Maybe in the future we’ll have such technology that I can put some money in a computer slot, reach in and grab that sandwich.

    ::drool::

  4. Simone (junglefrog)

    I am a sucker for bread, in any shape or form (also apparently not to good on ones waistline, but what the heck…) and this just looks sooooo good… mmmm…
    That photo where one of the kids is just poking his head up in the background is just fantastic… “What’s going on there? Can I eat it already?”

  5. Chris

    Great idea for next month. August is National Panini Month, don’t you know?

    Seriously, but I’m not sure how official it is, since Sargento cheese is behind the declaration. I can go along with that though!

  6. Charmian Christie

    Your photos are gorgeous and do justice to this wonderful book.

    I made the eggplant stacks, which are a bit on the fancy side, and had a real blast. Wonderful to see this book has so much versatility.

    Can’t wait to try more of these recipes.

  7. Daniel

    A pleasure to see how you treated this recipe. And your photos are exceptional.

    And given that chocolate, coffee, wine and meat are your cravings–I wonder if we were separated at birth. :)

    Dan
    Casual Kitchen

  8. Cora@CoraCooks

    Yeah, ciabatta always seems to give grilled sandwiches an inviting appearance – look but don’t chew. Thin crust with crispy holes is the way to go. Minimizes the risk of emergency dental work in place of dessert!

  9. cheryl @ 5secondrule

    Just a warning to look behind you the next time you make a sandwich. Looks there’s a wily little thief in that first frame.

    LOL yeah he was sneaky! Jaden

  10. NurseJen

    I gotta say — I ate waaay too much at dinner (home made tamale pie) and just ate a snicker’s ice cream bar, but still I’m reading your blog and DROOLING on my keyboard!! You really do publish food porn… Thanks!

  11. Maryann

    Looks like someone was peeking!!! This is something I would make for din-din and all my meat lovin’ guys would go gaga over.

  12. Kathy - Panini Happy

    I think “almost” meatless is about as meatless as I’m willing to go! I can just taste this one with some fresh mozz and sliced sourdough…mmmm :-)

  13. diva

    Almost Meatless will be the perfect gift for my housemate whose bday is just round the corner. she swears she’s a vegetarian but i bet it’s only part-time thing. she recently discovered bacon and cumberland sausages and can’t quite return to being the strict vege she was!! :) this looks so delicious by the way. mmmmm. x

  14. jenna

    not sure that qualifies as something with a leetle less meat! ok, by me, i’m a carnivore, most days. grilled sandwiches made with amazing bread is a weakness, that looks amazing!

  15. Tartelette

    The crazy thing is that I am just back from a party where there was plenty of food and I want this…NOW!!!
    That looks so so good. Off to read more about that book.

  16. TexasDeb

    Occasionally I’ve turned the ciabatta inside out to grill so the crust was up against the moist(er) interior of the sandwich and the porous side faced the grill. It can make sandwiches a little bit slippery to eat (although melty cheese can help with that) but it can also take care of the “it hurts to bite this” problems.

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