I was catching up on some Tivo'd food shows last week, including one from "Julia & Jacques Cooking at Home" featuring some of their favorite sandwiches. They made croque-monsieur and croque-madame two different ways. I was most intrigued by Jacques' technique of baking them, since I was used to the stovetop method used by Julia.

So this week, I tried baking "grilled" sandwiches. Wow-- way easier! You can make a whole tray of sandwiches at once this way, so I tried different variations to see which T and I preferred.

For all I used regular white bread, leftover chicken, and gruyère cheese. All had the outside of the bread buttered. But on the inside sides of the bread slices, one I buttered, another I used mayonnaise, and the last I used both mayonnaise and mustard. We like the one with both mayo and mustard best. Next I liked the one with just mayo, but T liked the one with just butter, so from here on out I'm going to focus on the mayo & mustard combo since we both agree that it is tastiest.

Today I made some more sandwiches in the oven, and tried some more variations. I also tried a hotter temperature. I forgot what Jacques had the oven set to on the TV show, so last time I just tried 350F. It got the sandwiches wonderfully crisp, but they didn't really get golden brown in the 10 minutes I baked them. Today I tried 400F for the same amount of time and on the same cookie sheet (a light-colored sheet), and they browned ever-so-slightly, turned out really beautifully, so I'm going to go with that temp.

Today I didn't mess with the bread coatings (butter on the outside for all slices, mayo & mustard on the inside), but I did change up the fillings. I used the same leftover chicken, but instead of gruyère I used cheddar (I'm saving the rest of the gruyère to use with ham next week) and added bacon. I also made one without cheese at all (since I'd used up the last of my cheddar. . .) that included chicken, bacon, and in lieu of cheese I added avocado slices and lots of honey. Oh YUM. What a tasty way to get some veggies, huh?

T liked today's sandwiches even better, he said he really didn't notice a taste difference between the gruyère and cheddar. That's one of the reasons he's so easy to cook for-- there are subtle taste differences that I notice that he overlooks, so while I grade my meals on a 100-point scale, with T it's more like a 5-point scale so it's easy to get an "A". I told him I'm glad he likes the cheddar just as well, since it's way cheaper and I always keep some in the fridge so he's more likely to get these sandwiches added to our regular food rotation now.

It still takes a little while to prepare the sandwiches, it's not as easy as just popping open a can of soup or something, but I do appreciate that I don't have to mind them once they are in the oven, unlike when actually grilling them on the stovetop. When I grill sandwiches in the George Foreman grill, they are equally free of monitoring, but I can only cook one sandwich at a time, where I can do entire trays of sandwiches at once in the oven.

These have turned out so well, I will continue to experiment with different fillings and stuff, since it could be perfect party food. Cut the sandwiches into triangles and serve as hot hors d'oeuvres. You can make the sandwiches ahead, and then just put them into the oven at party-time, they cook in 10 minutes.

I think I may also experiment with freezing the sandwiches, and cooking them directly from frozen. Although I might leave out the mayo, and try them with butter & mustard on the inside if I go that route. I'll have to think about how to adjust the cooking temp & time. But if I can make up a bunch of sandwiches and wrap them individually and freeze them, it would be a simple meal that T can prepare for us after I have the baby.