Is there a better palate opener than a single bite of a grilled ham and cheese sandwich, brightened by the tart crunch of a cornichon? Assemble all the ingredients for these baby croque monsieur sandwiches earlier in the day and then prepare them at the last minute, when guests and family are gathering.
Makes 18 squares, to serve 6 to 8
A toaster; a nonstick skillet; toothpicks.
4 slices Saffron Honey 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, ghee 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.
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.