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Croque monsieur

Time10 minutes
YieldsMakes 2 sandwiches
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There are some tricks to making good panini. Use a traditional panino roll or a good country white bread; cut into slices of even thickness.

Make sure whatever filling you use -- cured meats and cheeses, grilled vegetables, marinated tuna, even chunks of bittersweet chocolate -- is arranged evenly between the two pieces of bread.

Bring the ingredients to room temperature before you grill: If the ingredients are cold, the bread will brown long before the interior of your panini is heated, much less melted.

Once you have your sandwich assembled, simply put it on the hot grill. You don’t need to butter the bread first or grease the pan, as the bread won’t stick to the surface.

Press down the top for a minute to make sure that everything is firmly in place, then let the sandwich cook until it’s golden and crispy.

Grill an autostrada, a traditional Italian panino made with Italian meats and cheese and marinated peppers, or a glorious croque-monsieur, a French bistro-style ham and cheese sandwich.

With rich slices of Black Forest ham and nutty Gruyere cheese, you don’t even need the traditional sauce Mornay on top: Just sprinkle on some chives instead.

With the right pan -- and a little electricity -- you can make a terrific panino out of just about anything. That would be panino, singular. I guess the manufacturers of these “panini pans” assume you won’t ever make just one.

1

Turn on the panini grill. While the grill heats, assemble the sandwich: Spread the cheese equally over two pieces of bread. Layer the ham equally over the cheese. Place the remaining slices of bread on top.

2

When the grill is hot (the light will turn on), place the sandwich (or both sandwiches, depending on the size of the bread and your panini grill) on the grill. Press the top of the grill down firmly, making sure that the top and the bottom of the grill are parallel.

3

Cook, for about 4 to 5 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the sandwiches are golden. Lift the top and remove from the grill, cut into quarters, stack and top with chives. Serve immediately.

Although a classic croque-monsieur is served with a sauce Mornay, this is a simpler version, with snipped fresh chives for garnish. This recipe assumes the use of an electric panini press.