Le croque-monsieur is THE real French sandwich. It is not just a ham and cheese sandwich made with two pieces of bread. It is toasted and it is famous.
They are available in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. I could not believe my eyes when I saw a wide variety of croque-monsieur flavors in the same refrigerated case as Joël Robuchon’s ready made meals.
Probably anticipating my lust for French history and knowledge, the metro daily Direct Matin one day answered the question.
The legendary croque-monsieur was born in Paris at a brasserie on boulevard des Capucines in 1901. The legend began with Michel Lunarca, a bistro owner. Having no more baguette for his crusty sandwich of the day, Monsieur Lunarca decided to bake a loaf of pain de mie. Lightly baked, the bread keeps the crustiness of the baguette. When one of his customers asked about the origin of the ham, he responded, “Cést la ‘viande de monsieur’!” (“It’s that guys’ ham!”—probably referring to the local butcher or farmer). Et voilà!
One well known brand of “pain de mie” is Poilâne. Poilâne’s signature loaf is made of 4 ingredients: sourdough, stoneground wheat flour, water and sea salt from Guérande. When you go to a brasserie for le croque-monsieur or madame (with the egg on top), I recommend looking on the menu that the brasserie uses Poilâne or an equivalent.