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Triple-Decker Croque-monsieur

Recipes by Sarah McCullen | Photographed by Joe Worthem

1/3 cup heavy whipping cream

1 1/4 cups whole milk, divided

1/4 cup diced yellow onion

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 small dried bay leaf

2 points of star anise

2 whole cloves

4 tablespoons salted butter, plus more for

buttering bread

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Kosher salt

12 slices soft-crusted sourdough or other

white bread

1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese

16 slices Black Forest ham (from deli)

8 Muenster cheese slices

In a medium saucepan, bring heavy cream and 3/4 cup of the milk to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly. Add onion, dry mustard, nutmeg, bay leaf, star anise and cloves. Turn off heat, and let stand 10 minutes. Pour milk mixture through a fine mesh strainer, discarding solids.

In a separate saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour, and cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute; remove from heat. Slowly drizzle in milk mixture, whisking constantly. Add Dijon mustard, kosher salt to taste, and as much of the remaining 1/2 cup milk as needed to thin the sauce. The sauce should be a thick, fondue-like consistency.

To assemble the sandwiches, spread the sauce on 1 side of 4 bread slices. Sprinkle bread slices with about 1 tablespoon Gruyere cheese, and top with a slice of ham, a slice of Muenster cheese, and another slice of bread. Repeat layers once. Butter each side of sandwiches, and cook, 1 at a time, in a skillet over low heat, until sandwich is golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes per side, pressing to flatten sandwich.

Cut each sandwich in half diagonally, and then cut each half into three small triangles. Use a wooden pick to secure the sandwich. Garnish serving tray with fresh greens or herbs, if desired.

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