Recipes inspired by musicals: An American in Paris

Saturday, October 6, 2012

When I was in university, I fell in love with the Gershwins.

It was actually an Ella Fitzgerald recording of George and Ira Gershwin’s songs that I fell in love with.  I never knew whether it was George’s perfect music, Ira’s clever lyrics, or Ella’s elegant voice that drew me in.  Whichever it was, I listened to this record as much as anything in those days, including the Beatles and The Police, and that’s quite a lot.

Later, when Andrew and I chose a first song to dance to for our wedding, there was really only one option.  It had to be a Gershwin composition, and we went with “(Our) Love is Here to Stay”.  The version we chose was sung by Nat King Cole, and it was a perfect way to start our marriage.

When our first daughter was born, I remember being alone in the hospital room that first night with a crying baby.  I settled her by singing “Embraceable You” and “Someone To Watch Over Me”. 

So you can probably guess that I think the Gershwin brothers’ movie An American in Paris is absolutely delightful.

In addition to the music, the other element that makes this movie so watchable is Gene Kelly.  Kelly was a notorious perfectionist, and he makes every step look effortless.   I’ve never seen a musical number that’s more charming than when he teaches a group of French children how to speak English in  “I Got Rhythm”.  And with co-stars Oscar Levant in “Tra-La-La” and Georges Guétary in “S’Wonderful”, he took a film with a very simple plot and turned it into one that won an Oscar for best movie in 1951.

In short, An American in Paris – with superb music, unbeatable lyrics, and dancing that will take your breath away – is everything a musical should be.


There are a million wonderful recipes that An American in Paris might inspire, but I immediately thought of the food I ate as a young Canadian in Paris on an exchange trip.  On the second day of my trip, I ordered a sandwich in a tiny café. Back home it would have been called a grilled cheese with ham, and it would have made a nice lunch.  But there it was called a Croque Monsieur, and in that tiny café it felt like the most delicious meal I’d ever eaten.

(If you’re new to the blog, welcome to my semiannual feature of recipes inspired by musicals!  Previous months can be found here, here and here.)




Croque Monsieur
(from Ina Garten's Barefoot in Paris.  This recipe makes a large amount of cheese sauce and enough sandwiches for a big group.  You may wish to halve it.)

2 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 cups hot milk
1 tsp kosher salt
12 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated (about 5 cups)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
16 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
Dijon mustard
8 ounces baked ham, sliced thin

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan and add the flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon for two minutes.  Slowly pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thickened.  Off the heat, add the salt, 1/2 cup grated Gruyere and the Parmesan.  Set aside.

To toast the bread, place the slices on two baking sheets and bake for 5 minutes.  Turn each slice and bake for another 2 minutes, until toasted.

Lightly brush half the toasted breads with mustard, add a slice of ham to each, and sprinkle with half the remaining Gruyere.  Top with another piece of toasted bread.  Slather the tops with the cheese sauce, sprinkle with the remaining Gruyere, and bake the sandwiches for 5 minutes.  Turn on the broiler and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the topping is bubbly and lightly browned.  Serve hot.


36 comments:

Gloria said...

I adore Croque monsieur one of my favorites french recipes Beth!!
ah This look delicious Im absolutely hungry stiil I not lunch! nice!

Carol said...

A delicious tie-in to the movie! The sandwich looks fantastique :) I still listen to Ella.

Kathy said...

Wonderful post Beth!! I too, love the Gershwins and, Gene Kelly was one of my all time favorites…along with Fred Astaire! American in Paris was a phenomenal movie…I’ll have to see if I can find it on dvd! It’s been a long time since I enjoyed it!
Your Croque monsieur is gorgeous looking…thanks for sharing a wonderful memory through food.

yummychunklet said...

I love Ina's recipe! I've made it before, so I know you enjoyed it.

Food Gal said...

One of the classiest cheese sandwiches around. Mmm, who doesn't love a Croque Monsieur!

cquek said...

“Embraceable You” and “Someone To Watch Over Me”. - i like it too. thanks for sharing your post.

lisa is cooking said...

The cheese sauce looks so delicious--I'm starving now, looking at this! Ella is one of my favorites too. Such a unique and lovely voice.

realitaliandish said...

I like this recipe...
Thank yuo for the idea..
Bye from Italy

Claire Davis said...

Oh I love everything about this post, American in Paris, Gene Kelly and Croque Monsieur! Had quite a few of these In Paris but I have never made one here. Cant wait to try!

Angie's Recipes said...

Love Ella Fitzgerald!
The cheese sauce looks heavenly.

Carla Sandrin said...

American in Paris would be a great movie group pick, Beth. And the croques instead of our usual cheese and crackers. You've inspired me!

Belinda said...

What great songs to celebrate key moments in your life! Love croque monsieurs!!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

*wipes drool off keyboard* yum!!!!!!

I've never had one before. Even when I was in Paris.

The Golden Eagle said...

I'm actually just learning a Gershwin piece on the piano; this sounds like a tasty sandwich!

Lizzy Do said...

YUM! I introduced the family to these sandwiches in France this summer...but yours looks even better than what we ate! And I love American in Paris...and all those old tunes, too :)

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hurray! Your musically-inspired posts are back! I always enjoy these, and you've picked a super subject today. Gershwin's music can be so good. I haven't seen An American in Paris in ages - need to Netflix it. And I'll enjoy a great Croque Monsieur while I watch. Classic sandwich, and you did it proud.

Vicki Bensinger said...

I love Gershwin music and Cole Porter. In fact, I walked down the isle to Night and Day. Of course since it wasn't the traditional wedding march no one turned at first to view me walking. I love that music, and on Sundays when I was little my sisters and I would take turns dancing with my dad to music from the 40s. I loved it and miss that.

Your Croque looks so ooey gooey and delicious! I have Ina's cookbook but haven't made this recipe yet. It would have been perfect to make for lunch today - it was so chilly here. This is comfort food at its best!

Guru Uru said...

Love your musically inspired my friend :D
I have not heard of Gershwin but I will look for it now :D
You did it proud though I am sure :D

Cheers
Choc Chip Uru

Cindy said...

Such beautiful music! And this dish--I've seen it before but never made it. That just might change as I just bought some Gruyere cheese with no recipe in mind. Well, it's meant to be--diner tomorrow will be a cut down version of this, and we will be spoiled forever, I'm sure. Thanks.

Katerina said...

I've seen the movie and I love Gene Kelly too! I have never tried croque monsieur but yours look so delectable Beth!

Barbara said...

Love Gene Kelly and that movie will always be a favorite.
Croque Monsieur is delicious...I saw Ina make that on her show and it brought back Paris memories.

Medeja said...

Cheesy and yummy dish!

Joanne said...

Gershwin's music always makes me want to dance!

I love how cheesy this croque monsieur is.

Stephen Tremp said...

Anything baked with ham and cheese is awesome! I want some. Will make sometime this week.

Jemi Fraser said...

Yummy!! I'm a huge cheese fan & this sounds delicious! :)

Andrea_TheKitchenLioness said...

Beth, what a beautiful post - I love everything about it, the wonderful memories, the music and the actors that come to my mind when I read your wonderful writing...and the delicious looking Croque Monsieur reminds me that I have not prepared this terrific French sandwich in a while. Wonderful!

Monet said...

Love the movie and love Grace Kelly. No doubt I'd love this dish too! This post and recipe were a nice way to end a long Monday. Now I want to get into the kitchen and get creative. Thank you for sharing...and for inspiring me. I hope you have a wonderful evening!

Julie said...

Okay I am now going to sound like my parents used to sound when I was younger but they just don't make music like that anymore. Love those songs!
This dish looks amazing! Have a great week.

Claudia said...

A little bit of Paris, a lot a bit Gershwin. Their music still both soothes me and gets me jazzed up. What a lovely combination. Hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving.

artofnaturalliving.com said...

I loved An American in Paris though it was the movie "It's Complicated" that inspired me to make Croque Monsieur. Mmmm, now I want it again!

Valerie said...

How did I miss this post?! Beth, I love Croque Monsieurs! But I have never watched An American in Paris...something I'll be sure to fix. Soon!

What a romantic wedding song. :)

amy (fearless homemaker) said...

I love reading about your history with the Gershwins, especially about you singing to your new baby - so sweet. You just can't beat a simple + delicious Croque Monsieur. YUM!

grace said...

big gene kelly fan here! i love that movie and i love this dish!

Spicie Foodie said...

When I lived in Paris Croque monsieur were also a favorite of mine. We still have them now and then. Yours looks perfect and is making me crave one right now. Thanks for sharing!

Catherine said...

Dear Beth, What a nice post. I enjoyed every word. I love, love, love old musicals. I grew up watching and singing every word over and over! Gene Kelly was just so handsome and elegant, as were so many of that time period. I just never get tired of watching those classic movies.
I am glad that my children were not the only ones being sung Gershwin and other classics of that period to. And as for your wedding song a perfect choice and as for Ella is just doesn't get much better.
Now, for the food, this is a beautiful version of grilled cheese and ham, elegant and delicious!
Blessings my dearest. Catherine xo

bakewithjill.com said...

Oh my gosh, that looks like a wonderful treat! Ina has such delicious recipes.

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