If the words “brunch buffet” make you think of rubbery scrambled eggs and mini boxes of cereal, forget the horrors of hotels past. I'm reclaiming the AM buffet for the holidays and turning it into an elegant board of small bites — a tradition that I love to do with my own family! Gooey croque monsieur skillet dip is a fantastic anchor for a French-accented spread. It serves as the centerpiece among other morning favorites such as pain au chocolat, babka and various pastries, creamy French-style scrambled eggs and fresh fruit.
For the skillet croque monsieur dip: Position an oven rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to broil.
Put the milk in a microwave-safe cup or dish. Microwave until hot, about 1 minute. Whisk in the Dijon mustard until combined, then microwave for another 30 seconds.
Meanwhile, heat a 10-inch ovensafe skillet over medium heat and add the butter. When melted, add the shallot and garlic and cook, stirring often, until softened and fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to low. Add the flour all at once and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon until incorporated, about 2 minutes. Slowly pour in the hot milk mixture in a steady stream, whisking constantly. Increase the heat to medium low and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to low. Whisk in the Gruyere, nutmeg, kosher salt to taste, a few grinds of pepper, 3 ounces of the ham and 1/3 cup of the Parmesan. Remove from the heat.
Top the dip with the remaining 1 ounce ham, sprinkle with the remaining 2/3 cup Parmesan and finish with a few grinds of pepper. Place the thyme sprigs on top. Broil, rotating the skillet every minute to ensure even browning, until the top is golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes.
Spread the sourdough slices on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil on both sides and sprinkle with sea salt. Broil, flipping halfway through, until golden on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes total.
For the creamy scrambled eggs: Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl. Add the half-and-half and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Gently whisk until combined and uniformly yellow.
Melt the butter in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Pour in the egg mixture and let sit and cook for 10 seconds. Stir with a rubber spatula and continue to cook, stirring every 5 seconds and making sure to scrape up the cooked eggs from the bottom, until the mixture is set with medium-size creamy curds, about 5 minutes. If you prefer smaller curds, stir constantly until the eggs are just set. Transfer to a serving plate.
For the brunch board: Put some Dijon mustard in a small bowl for serving. Put half of the sourdough toast on a corner of a large board or platter, along with the mustard and a spreading knife.
Place a potholder in the center of a board and put the croque monsieur skillet on the potholder. Arrange the muffins, danishes, pain au chocolat, fruit and babka on separate boards placed around the croque monsieur dip. Place the plate of scrambled eggs on another empty board with the remaining toast slices. Top the eggs with the chives.
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