A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from December 30, 2008
Croque Monsieur (Croque Madame)

The Croque Monsieur (also “Croque-Monsieur” or “croque-monsieur,” French for the words “bite"/"crunch" and “Mister") has roots and similarites to the grilled cheese sandwich and the ham sandwich. Recorded in English in the 1915 Belgian Cook Book, the Croque-Monsieur contained Gruyere cheese and ham on buttered bread, served with dried parsley.

“Croque Madame” (sometimes called “Croque Mademoiselle"), cited from 1951, was described as when chicken replaces the ham in the sandwich.  However, a modern Croque Madame/Croque Mademoiselle simply tops the Croque Monsieur with a fried egg. A similar, American version of the Croque Monsieur sandwich, the Monte Cristo sandwich, is cited in print from at least 1923.


Wikipedia: Croque-monsieur
A croque-monsieur is a hot ham and cheese (typically emmental or gruyère) grilled sandwich. It originated in France as a fast-food snack served in cafés and bars. More elaborate versions come coated in a Mornay or Béchamel sauce. The emergence of the Croque-monsieur (and variations) is mirrored by growth in popular fast-foods in other countries.

The name is based on the verb croquer ("to crunch") and the word monsieur ("mister")—the reason behind the combination of the two words is unclear—and is colloquially shortened to croque. While the origins of the Croque-monsieur are unknown, there are many speculations on how it was first originated. One such story is that a long time ago there were French workers who would take their sandwiches to work with them. Some would take ham and cheese, and since they did not have coolers or refrigerators, they would leave their lunches by the radiators, and the cheese would melt. The Croque-monsieur’s first recorded appearance on a Parisian café menu was in 1910. Its earliest published use has been traced back to volume 2 of Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu (1918).

A ham and cheese sandwich snack, very similar to the Croque-monsieur, is called a Tosti in the Netherlands.

Variations
A croque-monsieur served with a fried egg or poached egg on top is known as a croque-madame (or in parts of Normandy a croque-cheval). Many dictionaries attribute the name to the egg resembling an old fashioned woman’s hat. According to the Petit Robert dictionary, the name dates to around 1960. The name croque-mademoiselle is associated with many different sandwiches, from diet recipes to desserts.

Versions of the sandwich with substitutions or additional ingredients are given names modelled on the original croque-monsieur, for example:

. croque provençal (with tomato)
. croque auvergnat (with bleu d’Auvergne cheese)
. croque norvégien (with smoked salmon instead of ham)
. croque tartiflette (with sliced potatoes and Reblochon cheese)
. croque Hawaii (with a slice of pineapple)
. croque Bolognese (with Bolognese sauce)

(Oxford English Dictionary)
croque monsieur, n.
Also with capital initials. Plural croque monsieurs, croques monsieurs. [< French croque monsieur (first attested slightly later in French, 1918, although cf. quot. 1988) < croque, imperative of croquer to crunch, bite (end of the 14th cent. as crokier in sense ‘to strike’; < an imitative base) + monsieur MONSIEUR n.]
In French cookery: a toasted or fried sandwich filled with cheese and ham.
1915 MRS. B. LUCK Belgian Cook Bk. 144 Entrée (Croque-monsieur). Cut out some rounds of crumb of bread, of equal size, with a tin cutter, or, failing that, with a wine-glass.
1923 Ideas for Refreshm. Rooms 358/1 He spoke of a sandwich which he called ‘Croque Monsieur’, a tid-bit that, as its French name implies, is a bite, a something to eat from the fingers, a snack that may be served as a relish after a hearty meal.
1988 Larousse Gastronomique (English ed.) 339/3 The first croque-monsieur was served in 1910 in a Parisian Café on the Boulevard des Capucines.
2003 Lancashire Life Mar. 252/1 It was served with croque monsieur, the classic French cheese and ham toasty.

Google Books
The Belgian Cook Book
edited by Mrs. Brian Luck
London: William Heinemann
1915
Pg. 144: (Pg. 75 in Google Books—ed.)
ENTREE (Croque-Monsieur)
Cut out some rounds of crumb of bread, of equal size, with a tin cutter, or, failing that, with a wine-glass. Butter all the rounds and sprinkle them with grated cheese--for preference with Gruyere. On half the number of rounds place a bit of ham cut to the same size. Put a lump of butter the weight of egg into a pan, and fry with the rounds in it, till they become golden. When they are a nice colour, place one round dressed with cheese on a round dressed with ham, so as to have the golden bread both above and below. Serve them very hot and garnished with dried parsley.
E. Defouck

Google Books
Laura’s Garden
By Aimery de Comminges, Marie Aimery Comminges, Bernard Miall
Translated by Bernard Miall
New York, NY: The Macmillan Company
1932
“The French original, ‘Dans son beau jardin’, was published in 1930.”
Pg. 120:
I am going to make croque monsieur and soupe du colonel. “Give me quickly some slices of ham, some slices of gruyere cheese, and fry them between two slices...”

Google Books
The Dinner Knell:
Elegy in an English Dining-room

By Thomas Earle Welby
Published by Methuen, 1932
Pg. 47:
And what about adopting one or two Continental savouries? I know none more worthy of adoption than the excellent Croque-monsieur. This is begun by melting…

Google Books
Clémentine in the Kitchen
By Samuel Chamberlain
New York, NY: Hastings House
1943
Pg. 123:
This is the sublimated ham sandwich: CROQUE MONSIEUR. Cut the crusts off thin slices of bread and spread each slice with a mixture of grated Swiss cheese and some thick cream, well mixed to make a paste. Place a thin slice of ham between each two slices of bread and dip these sandwiches in egg, then fry in butter. Serve with a beautiful cream…

3 February 1950, Waukesha (WI) Daily Freeman, pg. 5, col. 1:
Kern (Ed Kern, owner of a French restaurant in Manhattan—ed.) loves to debunk any mystery surrounding French recipes. For instance, there’s something called “croque monsieur” listed on his luncheon menu. It’s a valid French specialty. It also turns out to be a ham and cheese sandwich.

Butter Important
“The French serve it either as an hors d’oeuvre or as a luncheon dish,” Kern explained. “Trim the crusts from white bread, then butter it on both sides. (He emphasized that buttering each slice of bread on both sides was a necessary part of the recipe.)

‘Then put lean boiled ham and Swiss cheese between the buttered slices and fry the sandwich quickly in butter until it is golden brown.” And there you have the mysterious sounding “croque monsieur.”

Google Books
Newman’s European Travel Guide
By Harold Newman
New York, NY: Henry Holt & Co.
1951
Pg. 137:
A croque-monsieur is a grilled ham and cheese sandwich; with chicken, it is a croque-madame.

Google News Archive
31 July 1962, Pittsburgh (PA) Post-Gazette, “Marlene Dietrich’s ABC,” pg. 10, col. 2:
CROQUE-MONSIEUR
Emergency lunch or dinner. Into a flat baking pan you put slices of rye bread out into halves onto which you have put two thin slices of boiled ham and topped it with a thin slice of Swiss cheese. Fry for two minutes on the open flame and bake in medium oven till the cheese has melted just a bit. The bread will be crunchy, the ham juicy, the warm cheese will look like Swiss cheese not like a sauce.

Google Books
Gourmet in the Galley:
A Complete Guide to Practical Holiday Cookery Afloat and Ashore: 600 Recipes

By Felice Martel Morrison
Published by P. Davies
1968
Pg. 122:
Croque Madame: The recipe is the same except that the ham is replaced by cooked sliced chicken, and the mustard by a little mayonnaise.

4 December 1969, The Gleaner (Kingston, Jamaica), pg. 22, col. 4:
Here, for instance, is an inctuous hot hors d’oeuvre, based on the classic Croque Madame, which I consider an exciting addition to the Holiday menu.
(Croque Jamaica, with plantain and Jamaice pimento—ed.)

19 January 1970, Northwest Arkansas Times (Fayetteville, AR), pg. 14, col. 3 ad:
Leave it to the French to add sex to their recipes: the classic cheese and ham sandwich, dipped in batter and sauteed, is called a Croque Monsieur. But if chicken is used instead of ham, it becomes a Croque Madame.
(Suzie Wong’s Rice Bowl—ed.)

13 July 1972, Albuquerque (NM) Tribune, pg. 9 ad (American Dairy Association):
Dr. Santo’s Croque Monsieur (Dr. Joseph Santo, owner of the Sign of the Dover restaurant in New York—ed.)
Yield: 4
1 cup (4 oz.) grated Swiss cheese
1/4 cup light cream or hal and half
8 slices bread
8 slices boiled ham
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
CHEESE SAUCE:
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 cup milk
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded Cheddar cheese

Combine Swiss cheese and cream to make a paste. Spread on each slice of bread. Place a slice of ham on each slice of bread. Close to form a sandwich. In a shallow dish stir together eggs, milk and salt. Dip bread into egg-milk mixture; fry on lightly buttered griddle or skillet until brown on both sides and cheese has melted. Service with Cheese Sauce. To prepare Cheese Sauce: In a 1-quart saucepan melt butter; blend in flour and mustard. Remove from heat; stir in milk. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute; set aside. Stir in cheese until melted.
CROQUE MADAME
Substitute chicken for ham.

New York (NY) Times
Q&A
(NYT); Living Desk
September 12, 1984, Wednesday
Late City Final Edition, Section C, Page 15, Column 4, 425 words
Q. The sandwiches named croque-monsieur and croque-madame are great favorites of mine both in France and, when I can find them, in America. The names are odd, and I wonder if you can explain them?
A. The word croque derives from the French ‘’croquer,’’ which means ‘’to crackle when bitten into” as well as to “eat hastily.”

The origins of both sandwiches are obscure, and we are indebted to the French-chefs-in-America publication Toque Blanche for what we do know about their beginnings.

They first appeared in the brasseries of the grand boulevards in Paris between the two world wars. it is possible that they first appeared on the menu of the now-defunct Brasserie Weber on the Rue Royale. “In Paris,” an article in Toque Blanche states, “all brasseries soon copied this, as well as restaurants that enjoyed a night trade.”

The croque-monsieur is a ham and cheese sandwich; the croque-madame, a sliced chicken and cheese sandwich.

22 September 1988, Washington (DC) Post, “Virginia Dining” (La Grillade in Arlington) by Joan Horwitt:
As for the sandwiches, I’d order the croque mademoiselle again (a toasted ham and Swiss garnished with shrimp),...

Google Groups: rec.food.cooking
Newsgroups: rec.food.cooking
From: (wade lee)
Date: 1996/11/13
Subject: Re: Favorite Sandwich

One of my favourite sandwiches is a croque monsieur (and a croque mademoiselle) which is essentially a french grilled ham and cheese (the mademoiselle also has a fried egg.)

New York Magazine—Best of New York 2001
Best Croque Monsieur
Payard Patisserie & Bistro
1032 Lexington Avenue
Between 73rd and 74th Streets
212-717-5252
There are two schools of thought behind the croque monsieur. The simplest, most common version of this popular French snack, which has been showing up on Francophile menus all over town, is not that different from your standard-issue American classic, the grilled ham and cheese. But a true croque monsieur requires a béchamel sauce, which is how François Payard does it. His croque monsieur, based on his grandfather’s recipe, is layered with jambon de Paris, Swiss Gruyère, and a rich béchamel sauce, encased between slices of toasted white bread, and topped with more béchamel and grated Gruyère. It arrives straight from the oven—the cheese bubbling and golden-brown, melting over the sides of the bread, and with a rich, creamy center. 

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • (0) Comments • Tuesday, December 30, 2008 • Permalink