An irresistible French ham and grilled cheese sandwich recipe.
Warm the milk in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until steam rises from the milk, but it has yet to boil. Don't let the milk boil.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in another saucepan. One melted, add the flour and stir to create a bubbly, paste-like mixture. Stream in the hot milk, whisking as you do. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, taste-test, and add more if needed.
Stir the bechamel sauce over low heat until it's thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.
Turn on the oven's broil setting. Toast your bread slices in the toaster. Spread dijon mustard over half of the bread slices.
Top half of the bread slices with 2 slices of ham each. Then top the ham with some shredded cheese.
Place the remaining bread slices on top of the ham and cheese to assemble the sandwiches. Spread about 1 -2 tbsp bechamel sauce over the top of each sandwich. Add some more shredded cheese on top of the bechamel.
Set the sandwiches on a baking sheet on the middle rack of your oven until the cheese is beginning to melt and bubble. Move the sandwiches to the top rack for about 30 seconds, keeping your eye on it and removing when the cheese starts to obtain little golden spots.
You can use any kind of white bread that you like. The French traditionally use a brioche-type of bread. Sourdough tends to work really well for this recipe.
Try to get medium to thick slices of ham rather than the thin deli kind. If you do get the paper thin deli kind, then use 3 to 4 slices rather than the recommended 2 per sandwich.
To elevate the flavor of your bechamel, a great chef trick is to infuse the milk with a small wedge of onion, a pinch of ground cloves, and a bay leaf. Strain the hot milk before combining the milk with the roux (the butter and flour mixture).