croque veggie with roasted tomatoes on a cooling rack

Roasted Tomato Croques

An open-faced, veggie version of the classic croque monsieur that is lighter and healthier, but just as delicious!

I can still remember the sublime experience of eating a Croque Monsieur for the first time. A friend and I were on holiday traveling through Europe while studying abroad in England. We took the Chunnel from London to Paris, where we made romantic plans to meet some other friends at the top of the Eiffel Tower. 

My friend and I had been walking around all day, seeing the sights and taking in the sounds while a light mist engulfed the city. By dinnertime, we were wet, tired and hungry. We had no idea where to go for a reasonably priced dinner in Paris. We eventually stumbled upon a brasserie that looked warm, inviting, and best of all, cheap. I ordered a Croque Monsieur, not because I knew what it was, but because the description mentioned ham and cheese, which sounded familiar to my Midwestern palate.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this dish, it is essentially a ham and cheese (usually Emmental or Gruyère) sandwich on white bread. However, what makes this dish stand out is the béchamel sauce that is added to the sandwich, as well as the extra cheese that is sprinkled on top. The entire sandwich is then broiled for a minute or two to create a beautifully golden, crunchy crust. I’m salivating just thinking about it.

onions being sauteed with thyme and garlic in a pan

I came across a recipe for Roasted Tomato Croques in a recent issue of Food & Wine and immediately knew I wanted to make it. I’m going to go ahead and call it a summer version of the original, and I really like the fact that it’s an open-face sandwich. I think open-face sandwiches have virtue, if only because they better highlight the sandwich ingredients instead of hiding them between two pieces of bread. 

The original recipe called for straining the béchamel sauce, but I love onions, thyme, and rosemary, so I decided to leave them in for added flavor. It also called for pickled peppers, which I did not have on hand, so I substituted a few splashes of balsamic vinegar to each slice of bread before roasting and it did the trick. I took a bite of these beauties fresh out of the oven and was immediately transported back to that Paris brasserie.  Cue the Edith Piaf….

roasted tomato veggie croque arranged on a cooling rack

Step-By-Step Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add the onion, thyme sprigs, rosemary, mustard and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and just starting to brown, about 7 minutes.
  • Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until light golden, about 3 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk until incorporated and bring to a boil. Simmer the sauce over moderately low heat, stirring, until thickened and no floury taste remains, 7 to 10 minutes.
  • On a large rimmed baking sheet, arrange the tomato slices in a single layer.  Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Bake for about 15 minutes, until softened and just starting to brown.
  • Set a rack on another large rimmed baking sheet. Arrange the bread in a single layer on the rack and drizzle lightly with balsamic vinegar. Top each slice evenly with the béchamel. Using a spatula, lay the tomatoes on the béchamel.  Sprinkle with the Gruyère and thyme leaves. Bake the croques for about 20 minutes, until the tops are browned and the bottoms are crisp. Transfer to plates and serve hot.
roasted tomato veggie croque arranged on a cooling rack

Why This Recipe Works

The béchamel sauce is rich and creamy with herbal notes from the thyme and rosemary. The tangy balsamic cuts through the richness of the béchamel sauce and gives it a nice zippiness. Roasting the tomatoes ahead of time intensifies their flavor due to the caramelization process. And the nutty Gruyère becomes melted and golden, and brings the whole dish together. The toasts can be eaten as a snack or main dish.

Enjoy your week, and feel free to drop me a line in the comments – I would love to hear if you try this recipe! Or tag me on Instagram @maryannehoekstra to let me know how it turned out! Also, if you are enjoying my blog, please consider recommending it to your friends. They can subscribe here.

More Vegetarian Recipe Ideas!

Roasted Tomato Croques

An open-faced, vegetarian version of the classic croque monsieur that is lighter and healthier, but just as delicious!
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 50 mins
Course Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine French
Servings 6 croques

Ingredients
  

  • 5 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 small thyme sprigs, plus 1 tbsp. thyme leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. rosemary leaves
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • sea salt
  • black pepper
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 lbs. cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • 6 1/2-inch thick slices of sourdough bread
  • 1/2 lb. Gruyère cheese, shredded

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add the onion, thyme sprigs, rosemary, mustard and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and just starting to brown, about 7 minutes.
  • Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until light golden, about 3 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk until incorporated and bring to a boil. Simmer the sauce over moderately low heat, stirring, until thickened and no floury taste remains, 7 to 10 minutes.
  • On a large rimmed baking sheet, arrange the tomato slices in a single layer.  Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Bake for about 15 minutes, until softened and just starting to brown.
  • Set a rack on another large rimmed baking sheet. Arrange the bread in a single layer on the rack and drizzle lightly with balsamic vinegar. Top each slice evenly with the béchamel. Using a spatula, lay the tomatoes on the béchamel.  Sprinkle with the Gruyère and thyme leaves. Bake the croques for about 20 minutes, until the tops are browned and the bottoms are crisp. Transfer to plates and serve hot.
Keyword cherry tomatoes, croque, sourdough, thyme

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