I love to serve these small grilled ham and cheese squares, brightened by the tart crunch of a cornichon, as a fun palate opener when we have guests over. Assemble these baby croque monsieur sandwiches (not the classic version in the strictest sense as I have removed the bechamel sauce for a lighter summer touch) earlier in the day and then grill them at the last minute, when family and friends are gathering.
Ham and Cheese Squares (mini croque monsieur)
Makes 18 squares, to serve 6 to 8 | Equipment: A toaster; a nonstick skillet; toothpicks.
4 slices Honey and Saffron Brioche or white bread (pain de mie) crusts removed
2 teaspoons French mustard
2 thin slices best-quality cooked ham, cut to fit 2 slices of the bread
About 1/4 cup (30 g) freshly grated Swiss Gruyère cheese or other hard cheese
1 tablespoon (15 g) clarified butter or unsalted butter
9 cornichons, halved lengthwise
1. Toast the brioche or bread. Coat one side of each slice with the mustard. Place a slice of ham over the mustard on two sides of the slices. Sprinkle the cheese over the ham. Place the other slices of bread, mustard-coated side down, on top of the cheese.
2. In the skillet, melt the butter over low heat. Brown the bread evenly on both sides, about 1 minute per side. Cut each sandwich into 9 even squares. Pierce each cornichon half with a toothpick and secure the toothpick to the grilled bread. Arrange on a serving platter and serve warm, offering guests cocktail napkins.
Wine suggestion: Grilled cheese and champagne? Why not? I love Pierre Moncuit’s blanc de blancs, a medium-bodied, clean, and always reliable offering that has a purity that matches just about any opening taste.