How An Ina Garten Recipe Inspired My Husband To Pop The Question

I’m not talking about that famous roast chicken.

Once you make Ina Garten's Croque Monsieur recipe, your life will be categorized into events that preceded this universe-shifting ham and cheese sandwich and those that occurred after the first bite. Just ask my husband.

It all started back in 2009 with an on-demand viewing of It's Complicated. I'm a sucker for Nancy Meyers films—really, I just want to live in those sets (there's an Instagram account for that worth a rainy-day scroll)—but this particular one was beyond compare. I still dream of that kitchen, the amazing-looking green bean recipe Meryl Streep's character whipped up (still on the hunt for that one), those chocolate-filled croissants, and swapping inside jokes and knowing glances with John Krasinski. But, most of all, I dream of croque monsieur piping hot from the oven, shared with my real-life Steve Martin and a glass of crisp white wine. It's too dreamy for words.

Ina Garten Talking with Microphone
Getty/Brad Barket / Stringer

I found the whole scene so inspiring that I immediately started seeking out recipes for the elevated ham and cheese sandwich. Of course, it didn't take much searching to land on what would help me recreate this instantly iconic scene in my parent's Tampa kitchen (so romantic, I know). No one but Ina could be responsible for bringing this kind of domestic culinary magic to the table, or kitchen island, as it were. Of one thing I was sure: Getting my hands on "good Dijon mustard" would be absolutely integral to my success. Maille Dijon was the one for the job.

There was a certain satisfaction that came along with that pretty little jar sitting on the counter as I shredded, whisked, baked, broiled, and waited. Something about it just set the scene. With one eye on the oven, I sipped my wine and chatted with the one who is today my husband of nearly 10 years. He probably talked about his new, fresh-out-of-college job in finance with jargon that was lost on me, completely unaware that I was about to upend his life with one very special sandwich. I probably daydreamed about years and years of sitting just as we were, each and every night. Poor thing—he had no idea. When the timer started going off, I raced to the oven. The cheese sauce cascading over the edges, with browned, bubbly bits smattering the top was almost too perfect to cut into—but we did and with abandon.

I remember watching his face as he took that first bite, the combination of savory, salty, cheesy goodness, hitting every single one of his tastebuds. He certainly loved me before I introduced him to Ina Garten's Croque Monsieur, but knowing this kind of dinnertime splendor existed just made everything so much less… complicated—ironic, really, had he known its inspiration.

Since then there have been Ina recipes galore that have graced our dinner table, but none quite so memorable as the Barefoot Contessa's Croque Monsieur.

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