Sometimes cooking inspiration is right under your feet

I was wondering about the source of our recent bout of Francophile fever in our cooking. The crepes, the souffle, the frequent appearances of baguettes, the omelets. Then I realized it was, of course, because of our cats.

Specifically, our two new kittens. While I was out of town several months ago, my husband finally caved and rescued a very sick kitten from the feral colony outside our door. The vet gave the tiny orange fluffball a 50-50 chance of survival. But he forgot about my husband’s ability to work miracles with tiny felines. (He now refers to him, correctly, as “the cat whisperer”.) When it became apparant the fluff ball was not only going to live, but thrive, and of course, stay inside curled up on our laps forever, he needed a name. So, when I finally got home, I found a note on the door of the room where the kitten was still in isolation. Sarkozy had apparently come to stay. I laughed and immediately started running over more permanent names in my head. But Spike, Norman and Flea never stuck. Well, he is a very small cat with a very large attitude. When we eventually had to rescue his brother, the name we gave at the vet’s office off the tip of our tongues — Mitterand.

With two French presidents flying around the house, sitting at our feet while we cook, curious about every little thing that flutters, jingles or swishes, it’s no wonder we have taken the leap into France.

It could be the cold-ish weather and the comfort of hearty, peasant food. But nah. Like everything else in our home, we’ll blame it on the cats.

Croque Monsieur

1 loaf of dense, crusty bread (we used a hearty, multi-grain Italian loaf to keep it international)

1/2 pound ham, sliced thinly

6 oz. Gruyere cheese (or Emmentaler)

Dijon mustard

butter, softened

Preheat the broiler

Slice bread into 14 thick pieces

Slather 7 pieces of bread with as much butter and mustard as you like.

Top with a pile of ham.

Top with remaining bread slices and place under the broiler until toasted.

While sandwiches are toasting, grate the cheese.

Remove pan from oven and carefully flip the sandwiches.

Top with grated cheese and replace under the broiler until cheese is fully melted and bubbling.

For a Croque Madame, add an over-easy egg on top of each sandwich.

Great sides include radishes, tiny gherkins, clementines or slices of avocado drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil and a shake of salt.





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