Posh croque monsieur
This is no ordinary cheese and ham toastie. The recipe is absolute pimpage and comes from George Barson who’s head chef at Core Pearl in Covent Garden.
When I saw the recipe in the November 2018 edition of Restaurant magazine I thought, “I’ve got to give this a go”. As a welshman, the cheese ganache grabbed my attention because it sounded a lot like welsh rarebit. The ganache is a rich, smooth and thick custard made with Montgomery’s cheddar, which melts really well and brings a slightly sour note, a Guinness reduction and a hit of umami from white miso. Also there’s Gellan F, which is a gelling and thickening agent, that’s resilient to heat and stops the ganache splitting.
Ham hock is possibly my favourite meat. In this recipe, the ham is more like a terrine. It’s made by slow-cooking ham hocks and pigs cheeks with a few root vegetables and aromatics, then stripping the meat, adding a flavour-packed pork sauce and letting it set. The natural gelatin in the jellied ham hock melts when heated in the toastie, creating an unctuous texture to the sandwich filling.
The bread is a vehicle for the gooey goodness inside the toastie so you’re looking for a soft bread with a tight crumb that toasts to a perfectly crisp golden brown when it’s basted lavishly with butter. A bloomer is perfect. I love sourdough but it can have large holes in the crumb and you don’t want any leakage.
This is definitely a posh croque monsieur that works equally well with a glass or wine or a glass of beer. Add a bit of British on the side with some sharp pickle.
This recipe makes enough for 20 toasties.
200ml double cream
170g of egg yolks (about 10 large eggs)
300g Montgomery’s cheddar, grated
1.5g Gellan F
30g white miso
1.5kg pork bones
2tbs rapeseed oil
8 banana shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 leeks, chopped
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
6l chicken stock
JELLIED HAM HOCK:
7 ham hocks
7 pig cheeks
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
1 head of garlic, cut in half
2 leeks, roughly chopped
300g shallots, finely chopped
250g unsalted butter
30g chopped fresh chives
30g chopped fresh tarragon
30g chopped fresh chervil
300g pork sauce
To make the cheese ganache:
1. Reduce the Guinness to 100ml and allow to cool.
2. Pour the double cream, milk, Guinness reduction and miso into a saucepan and bring to a simmer.
3. Meanwhile, lightly whisk the egg yolks in a bowl.
4. Pour a splash of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks and whisk in immediately.
5. Pour the remaining milk mixture and whisk thoroughly.
6. Add everything back to the pan and return to the heat.
7. Whisk in the Gellan F and bring up to 85C, whisking constantly.
8. Turn off the heat, quickly add the cheese and whisk until silky smooth.
7. Pass through a chinois or sieve, pour into piping bags and chill.
To make the pork sauce:
The following makes more pork sauce than you need for the jellied ham hock, but the extra will keep in the ridge for a week or so.
1. Roast the pork bones in the oven at 240C until golden.
2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large pan and caramelise the shallots, garlic, carrots, leeks and thyme over a high heat.
3. Add the madeira and evaporate. Then add the chicken stock and roasted pork bones.
4. Simmer gently for around 2 hours, skimming a few times. Season to taste, then strain through a chinois or sieve.
5. Wipe the pan clear of any debris and return the liquid to the pan. Reduce to 800ml, with a consistency that coats the back of a spoon.
To make the jellied ham hock:
1. Cover the ham hocks and pigs cheeks with water and add the carrots, onions, garlic and leeks.
2. Simmer for around 4 hours until the meat falls cleanly away from the bone.
3. Meanwhile, gently soften shallots in butter.
4. Allow the hocks and cheeks to cool in the liquid. Then carefully pick the meat, removing sinew, bone and excess fat. Expect around 3kg of meat.
5. Add the softened shallots (and the butter they’re in), herbs and pork sauce and mix thoroughly. Season to taste.
6. Double line a baking tray with cling film and evenly spread the ham hock mixture over it.
7. Lay a double layer of cling over the top, removing any air, and press under a heavy weight overnight.
8. The next day, turn the ham out onto a board and cut into strips to fit onto a slice of bread.
Assembling the toastie:
1. Slice 2 pieces of bread. In the photos, you may notice that I made toasties with a white bloomer loaf and a light spelt loaf.
2. Remove the crusts from the slices of bread to fit exactly the slice of jellied ham hock. You can also remove the crust after toasting, especially if you use a toasted sandwich maker.
3. Cover one slice of the bread with the slice of jellied ham hock.
4. Using a 0.75cm nozzle, pipe 5 or 6 stripes of the cheese ganache across the top of the ham then cover with the second slice of bread.
5. Melt a small amount of butter in a frying pan over a low-medium heat. You don’t want the butter to brown.
6. Brush the top of the bread touching the jellied ham hock. Place into the pan, butter-side down. You can, of course, use a toasted sandwich maker if you have one.
7. While the bottom slice of bread is browning, brush the top slice with some of the melted butter. Place a weight on top and toast until golden.
8. Carefully turn the toastie over in the pan to brown the other side. Don’t put the weight on top this time.
9. Remove the toastie from the frying pan. Let it rest for a minute then serve straight away.