Melty cheese and crispy bread are the perfect pairing for soup, creamy or brothy. And this may be the ultimate soup sidecar. If you are fan of the classic croque monsieur, this is basically just the top. A creamy, cheesy béchamel sauce browned until bubbly on a good piece of bread. I like it plain, but feel free to alter it to suit your soup – before you melt in the cheese add finely chopped green onions, a dash of cayenne, a dollop of mustard, lots of cracked black pepper. The topping will keep covered in the fridge for two days, giving you a weekend of special soup meals,
Fontina Cheese Toasties
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons flour
1 ¼ cup milk
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup grated fontina cheese
8 thick slices country bread, like ciabatta or boule
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
Melt the butter in a saucepan, then whisk in the flour. Continue whisking until it is smooth and pale, almost white. Slowly whisk in the milk and cook over medium-high heat until the sauce is thick and smooth. Whisk in the nutmeg. Whisk in the cheese, a bit at a time, stirring until melted before adding more cheese.
Chill the mixture in the refrigerator until it has firmed up. The topping will keep covered in the fridge for two days.
Preheat the broiler in your oven. Place the sliced bread on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or non-stick foil. Lightly toast the bread on one side, then remove it from the oven and spread a generous amount of the cheese sauce on the untoasted side. Make a nice thick layer, spread to the edges. Sprinkle a pinch of flaky salt over the toasties, then place under the broiler. Broil until the cheese is bubbly and lightly browned in spots, about 5 minutes. Watch very carefully and remove as soon as the brown spots appear.
Let the toasties cool for a minute, then serve them with a nice bowl of soup.
Makes 8 toasties, perfect to accompany 4 bowls of soup