Buvette is a French word meaning refreshment stall, cafe or bar, and the West Village restaurant of the same name has become a sanctuary for francophile New Yorkers over the last few years. The trendy hole-in-the-wall is open for service all day, and is popular for its morning coffee and croissants, afternoon cocktails, uncomplicated suppers, and bustling weekend brunches. I have yet to muster the willpower to wait for a table in the interminable line at the restaurant, but when the Buvette cookbook was released last month, I knew I had to get my hands on it. This time Buvette would arrive at my doorstep, instead of the other way around.
The book turned out to be everything I had hoped for and more. It is filled with simple yet elegant, easy-to-follow recipes, as well as stunning photography. Instead of the usual Vegetables, Starches and Proteins categories, the Buvette cookbook recipes are organized by Mornings, Afternoons and Evenings, as well as a few other sections, which makes it easier to integrate the recipes into one’s cooking repertoire. I also love that the book is unpretentious; the ingredient lists are relatively short and don’t call for hard-to-find items.
While initially flipping through the book, I couldn’t help but flag half a dozen recipes at once, but when deciding what to make first, of course it had to be the Croque-Monsieur – everyone’s beloved ham and cheese sandwich. But, since I’m trying to cut down my meat intake, I went for the Croque-Forestier variation, wherein the ham is replaced with mushrooms.
Once my sandwiches were composed and baking in the oven, I realized I had made a silly mistake – I topped the sandwiches with béchamel-covered bread sauce side down instead of sauce side up, which is why my sandwiches look slightly different from the ones pictured in the book. I’ve made a similar recipe in the past so I knew this step but I was following the book’s directions so closely that I stopped relying on my own instincts. But it’s no big deal – this croque-forestier still rocked my world.
Adapted from Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food by Jody Williams (Grand Central Life & Style, 2014)
(Yield: 4 sandwiches)
1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3/4 c whole milk
1 tbsp whole grain mustard
8 slices bread
10 oz mushrooms, sliced (cremini or chanterelles)
1 tbsp butter
1 1/2 tsp Herbes de Provence (I substituted with dried rosemary)
1 c coarsely grated Gruyere cheese (Fontina will also do)
Salt + freshly ground black pepper
Procedure: Begin by cooking the mushrooms. Melt 1 tbsp butter in a large skillet over medium heat and add mushrooms with 1/2 tsp of Herbes de Provence. Cook until mushrooms are browned, about 7 min, stirring occasionally. Then turn heat off and season with pinches of salt and pepper.
Next, prepare the béchamel sauce. Combine the butter, flour and nutmeg in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until barely browned, about 2-3 min. Gradually whisk in the milk and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and begins to pull away from the edges on the pan, 3-4 min. The mixture should be the consistency of thick pudding and stick to the spoon. Turn heat off and season with a pinch of salt.
Heat the oven to 425F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Stir the mustard into the béchamel sauce and, dividing evenly, spread béchamel on one side of each slice of bread, making sure to spread the béchamel from corner to corner on each slice. Place the bread on the prepared baking sheet. Top 4 of the slices with mushrooms and some cheese, and top with the remaining béchamel-coated bread slices, béchamel side up. Top sandwiches with remaining cheese and sprinkle with remaining Herbes de Provence. Bake sandwiches until cheese is melted and tops are starting to crisp, about 10 min. Serve immediately.
This book was sent to me by its publisher. I was not otherwise compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.