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Happy New Year! Your Restaurant’s ON FIRE!!

plus a recipe for one very decadent sandwich:

Dungeness Crab Croque Monsieur

Cut Croque

“The restaurant is on FIRE!  I repeat the restaurant is on FIRE!  You need to get dressed and get down here RIGHT NOW!  I repeat the restaurant is on FIRE!  This is not a joke.”

It was the voice of our GM bellowing over sirens through my wife’s phone at 10:45 PM December 31st.  In preparation of our annual New Year’s Day butt kicking, (because we Southerners have to get our black eyed peas and collard greens on for the new year) we had gone to bed well before the celebratory midnight.

“Check the cameras on your phones. There are fire trucks here and they’re about to run a ladder onto the roof.  You need to get down here right away!”

Firemen Ladder

This is what ran through my half-asleep, champagne sodden brain.  In this order:

  1. Do not wake the baby up.  The last thing I wanted to deal with was a burning restaurant and a screaming toddler.
  2. Good thing we have really good insurance.
  3. Thank God I won’t have to work tomorrow.
  4. Maybe I should have another glass of champagne.

Luckily for us (and the other 25 people who depend on income from the restaurant) this wonderful gentleman located the smoldering pile of kitchen towels before any hoses and axes were fully deployed:

If This Is You Please Come By For Free Breakfast!
If this is you please come by for free breakfast!

The last thing that the GM (who had a house full of dinner guests and a prime rib waiting on him) mentioned was that he overheard one of the parting firemen say, “Good thing this one didn’t burn down.  I love this place!”  Bless his little firefightin’ heart.

The next day we were greeted by this atrocity outside of the restaurant:

Who Knew Still Warm From The Dryer, Grease Saturated And Overly Bleached Towels Could Combust?
Who knew still warm from the dryer, grease saturated and overly bleached towels could combust?

By the end of the day that the restaurant was supposed to burn to the ground we actually ended up doing a record number of covers.

Eternally Grateful For All Of The Folks Willing To Wait Outside Our Place.  Life Is Good.
Eternally grateful for all of the folks willing to wait outside our place.
Life is good.

And of course whenever we break a new record at Brenda’s we always crack open a bottle of this stuff:

Which Of Course We Shoot With Ramekins.  Only The Best For Us.  Salud!
Which of course we shoot with ramekins. Only the best for us. Salud!

I would like to say the wife and I went home and had a nice elegant meal dining on the following recipe, which I’d been fooling around with the day before, but it got all kinda fuzzy after the second shot…

Croque Orleans

I’d been wanting to mess with the classic Croque Monsieur which we serve at the restaurant for a while now, but the right combo just hadn’t come to mind until early last month when Dungeness Crab season started.  Yes, it’s a sandwich, but it’s an extremely decadent special occasion one, not for the faint of heart, but then not much of my food is.

For 4 Croques you will need:
8 Slices White Bread (we use Sourdough)
8 Slices Ham (we use Tavern Ham)
16 Slices Swiss Cheese
Bechamel (see recipe)
Crab Filling (see recipe)
Cayenne (optional. I like it spicy, don’t you?)

Croque After Bechamel

For Bechamel:
This can be made a couple days ahead and will make a little more than you will need.
1/2 Stick Butter
1/2 C Flour
3 C Whole Milk
1/2 C Shredded Mozzarella
2 TB Grated Parmesan
Tiny Pinch Nutmeg
Salt and Pepper to taste

Make a white roux by melting butter in a small saucepan and slowly whisking in the flour until fully incorporated.  Cook for 3 minutes.  Whisk in milk slowly and cook until thickened.  Stir in cheeses and season to taste with nutmeg, salt and pepper.  Remove from pan to a bowl and set aside in refrigerator to cool down completely.

For Crab Filling:
3 TB Cream Cheese
1 TB Mayo
1 1/2 C Raw Leeks, sliced , cleaned and braised in butter until soft.  Cooled down.
1/2 TB Minced Garlic
1/2 TSP Lemon Juice
4 Oz Crab Meat
Salt and Pepper to taste

Whip mayo and cream cheese together until fully incorporated.  Stir in leeks, garlic and lemon juice.  Fold in crabmeat.  Season with salt and pepper.

To assemble:  Generously spread béchamel on every slice of bread.

On half of the slices place 2 pieces ham and on the other half coat generously with a layer of the crab filling.

Sprinkle cayenne over crab filling layer to taste.

Place 2 slices Swiss cheese on all slices of bread.

Move all individual slices onto a backing pan and toast until cheese is bubbly and golden.  The final step is to stack the crab-topped breads over the ham ones. Et Voila!

I Think A Nice Green Salad On The Side Is In Order
I think a nice green salad on the side is in order

All photos taken by Libby Truedell