Last Saturday was National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day. It also happened to be The Master's Golf Tournament... and you know what that means. Veto visits the guys over at the Man Shack (the most tricked-out man cave in the world, but that's a whole other story) and they watch the golf action on a movie screen. They sit in lawn chairs. They wear special green shirts. They take it pretty seriously.
They also take the sandwiches seriously. Every year, Saucy sends over a box of sammies for the guys to chow down while they pretend they're live in the gallery. She's made pressed sandwiches, pulled pork sandwiches, meatball sub sandwiches, grilled panini sandwiches, and more. This year, she wanted to switch things up just a bit, but she was afraid the guys wouldn't go for it.
This year, Saucy really wanted to send her favourite sandwich, the Croque-monsieur. Realistically, sending a delicate sandwich that originated in the cafes of Paris into the Man Shack presented some unique problems. Would the fellas enjoy the delicate flavours of buttery white bread with the crusts cut off filled with ham and Gruyere cheese? What about the traditional topping of béchamel? How to transport it?
And then, a thought dawned on her. She uses a béchamel to make her famous mac and cheese... so why not put the mac and cheese inside the sandwich, along with the ham, and more cheese? Then grill the whole thing? It would be epic. It would be... the world's first... grilled macaroni et croque-monsieur.
You can make these, too. Start by making your favourite mac and cheese recipe, or you can use Saucy's:
3 cups boiled, drained elbow macaroni
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
3 cups warm milk
salt, to taste
fresh ground pepper
3 cups shredded cheese (for these sandwiches, Saucy used a combo of Gruyere, traditional Swiss Emmental, and a mild white cheddar)
600 grams finely shredded, good quality dry smoked ham
Melt the butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. When completely liquid (don't let it brown), sprinkle the flour into the pan and whisk consistently for about two minutes. This is the roux that will thicken your béchamel beautifully. You really want to ensure that the flour is cooked during this step, otherwise your sauce will taste "pasty."
Gradually add the warm milk to the roux. This is very gradual at first and if done correctly you will see the béchamel come together as you are whisking. After all of the milk is incorporated bring the mixture over medium-high heat to almost-boil. Remove from the heat and stir in your cheeses and the shredded ham. Add salt and pepper to taste.
To assemble the sandwiches, you will need:
64 thick (1 inch) slices of French bread (Saucy chose this because it's sturdy enough to hold the filling and easy to grill)
4 cups shredded cheese (your choice, Swiss and cheddar worked well)
good quality Dijon mustard (or a Dijon-mayo mixture)
Begin by buttering the sliced bread. Butter one side quite heavily. Place the butter sides down and make "pairs" matching your slices by size. This way, the sandwich is buttered and ready for grilling. The macaroni mixture will act like "glue" to hold the sandwich together. At this point, spread some Dijon mustard onto one of the bread slices, as you desire.
Use an ice cream scoop or large spoon to place about a quarter to a third cup of mac and cheese onto one of the slices of each pair. You can make a little assembly line here... you are making thirty-two sandwiches, after all. After topping a slice of bread with the macaroni, add some more shredded cheese and a dash of fresh pepper to spark it up a bit. Fold the second slice over, butter side out, completing your sandwich construction. You will also note, that for practicality's sake, Saucy kept the crusts on the bread.
Saucy wrapped each sandwich in parchment paper and sent them to the Man Shack un-grilled. The guys were in charge of their own grilling (partly because guys love to grill anything but also nothing is as amazing as a hot-of-the-grill melted cheese sandwich).
You can see the assembly process over on Instagram. It was late at night and taking step-by-step shots with buttery fingers and her good camera was not an option.
PS. You don't have to make 32 sandwiches. You can make a few sandwiches and put the rest of the mac and cheese in a buttered casserole dish. Bake it at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, that's a meal right there. This recipe actually did make 32 hearty sandwiches.