• If you can . . . Croque Madame

If you can . . . Croque Madame

A Croque Madame is one of those truly sinfully delicious delights. I grew up spending the summertime caravanning with my family in France, and to this day I attribute these summers to my, dare I say “adventurous” palette and sincere love for all things cuisine. At the time, we were living in the UK so it wasn’t too far of  a jaunt across the pond. Once out of the “chunnel” aka Channel Tunnel, or off the ferry, one of my favorite things to eat was a Croque Madame in all its gooey glory.Since then, I have ordered my fair share of Croque Madams (and Monsieurs) in restaurants throughout my normal daily life. For a long time, upon seeing them on a menu a bout of sheer nostalgic elation captivated my taste buds in a pre-meal “what if?”. . . would this be the one to get it right?  Unfortunately I always remain disappointed.

The bottom line is this: a Croque Madame, is NOT just a ham and cheese sandwich, and this my friends is where the mark continues to be missed. What makes the Madame such a beautiful thing is, 1) the egg, and 2) the expertly finessed gooey, Gruyere béchamel that transforms this otherwise garden variety sandwich to a galvanized god send. The magic happens when, upon broiling, the béchamel effortlessly bubbles into the bread somehow creating this soft, fluffy, messy delight that, when topped with an egg does an authentic Croque Madame make.

I’ve tried many recipes over the years to achieve the most authentic sandwich possible. Here is my favorite, I highly recommend giving it a whirl! Word to the wise . . . do not skimp on the gruyere, go big or go home with this one!

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for baking sheet
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 cup Gruyere, grated, plus 8 ounces, thinly sliced
Coarse salt (I love Maldon)
1/8 tsp. white pepper
small pinch nutmeg (a little goes a long way here!)
8 slices brioche/thick white bread, cut 1/2-inch thick, toasted
6 ounces baked ham, thinly sliced
2 large eggsIll give you this one in steps as it can get a little tricky.

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Butter a baking sheet; set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add flour, and cook until lightly bubbling, continuously whisking for 3 minutes. This will remove the starchy taste of the flour from your roux.
  3. In another medium saucepan, heat the milk over medium heat. Slowly add milk to your roux, continuing to whisk to prevent lumps.  Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and cook  for a couple of minutes more. Stir in 1/2 cup grated cheese, and season with salt, white pepper, nutmeg. Cook until thick, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl, and set aside to cool.
  4. Place 4 pieces of toast on a work surface and spread each piece with a 1/4 cup of sauce. Cover sauce with a slice of cheese, a slice of ham, then another slice of cheese. Top each sandwich with remaining 4 slices of toast. Spread each sandwich with 1/4 cup sauce, and make sure to get around the sides of the sandwich so it is all completely covered! Finish by sprinkling the top of the sandwiches with  1/2 cup grated cheese.
  5. Place sandwiches on baking sheet, and bake until the cheese looks gooey, about 5 minutes. Preheat broiler; transfer the baking sheet to broiler and broil the sandwiches until golden brown, fluffy and bubbly on the top, 2 to 3 minutes. Keep a close eye here as this is where things can go very wrong. In a separate pan cook eggs sunny side up, and place on the top of the finished sandwiches.

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