Croque Madame

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Breakfast is the one meal of the day that I have a hard time fitting in, mostly because I’m not all that hungry when I wake up. But every now and then I’ll crave a classic Sunday morning breakfast of over easy eggs, slightly crisped bacon, garlic-packed breakfast potatoes, and buttered toast. And a few weeks ago, after perusing the Saveur website from my horizontal office at 11:00PM, I decided to go all out (for me) for the next day’s breakfast. I made croque madame.

Prior to making croque madame, and several months ago, I’d treated my taste buds to a croque monsieur from Petite Maison in Scottsdale, AZ. Croque monsieur, which originated in France, is a grilled or toasted hot ham and cheese sandwich with béchamel sauce. Add a fried egg on top and you’ve got a croque madame. The egg is said to resemble a woman’s hat, thus croque madame. “Croque” comes from the word “croquer,” which means “to crunch.” And there are several versions of the croque sandwich, including croque Bolognese, croque Provençal, croque señor, and more. Each one offering up wonderful crunch and delightful flavor combinations.

In my humble opinion, the croque madame is an ultimate breakfast sandwich due to its layers of flavors and fork and knife elegance. And the Gruyère béchamel sauce for this recipe… C’mon… I could eat spoonful after spoonful of this French white sauce. There’s a reason why béchamel is one of the four “mother sauces,” and the béchamel sauce is the reason why your taste buds melt with love when you bite into a croque madame.

Making this breakfast sandwich is incredibly easy, and if you’ve never made béchamel sauce, you have nothing to worry about—it’s easy, too.

While making my croque madame I enhanced the experience by listening to one of my favorite French songs: Paris Paris. It’s a sexy little number by Malcolm McLaren, and the video features Catherine Deneuve. Malcolm, who passed away on April 8, 2010, was manager of the Sex Pistols and the New York Dolls, and he had an amazing career full of projects.

And here are the no-fail instructions for making mouth-watering croque madame. Recipe courtesy of Saveur. Note: I use Italian or sourdough bread for toasted sandwiches, because I love the extra crunchiness these breads provide once toasted.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 12 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
  • 12 (3/4-inch-thick) slices pain de mie or Pullman bread, toasted (these breads are the equivalent of sandwich bread)
  • 6 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 12 thin slices baked ham
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 6 eggs

Preparation

Heat butter in a 2-quart saucepan over medium high heat.

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Add flour; cook and whisk until smooth, about 1 minute.

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Whisk in milk; bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and let simmer until slightly reduced and thickened, 6 to 8 minutes.

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Add 1/3 cup grated Gruyère and the Parmesan.

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Whisk until smooth. Season with salt, black pepper and nutmeg.

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Heat broiler to high. Place 6 slices toasted bread on parchment paper-lined or foil-lined baking sheet, and spread 1 tablespoon mustard over each.

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Top with 2 slices ham and remaining Gruyère.

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Broil for 1 to 2 minutes, until cheese begins to melt.

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Top with remaining bread slices. Pour a generous amount of béchamel on top of each sandwich. Broil for about 3-4 minutes, until cheese sauce is bubbling and evenly browned. Note: The photo below is before broiling.

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Meanwhile, heat oil in a 12″ nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add eggs, season with salt and black pepper, and cook until whites are cooked but yolks are still runny (sunny-side up), about 3 minutes. Place egg on top of each sandwich, and serve hot. Note: Generally croque madame is topped with a sunny-side up egg, but I like my eggs cooked over easy.

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The croque madame is a super tasty breakfast sandwich that will impress anyone, whether you’re eating alone or you’re feeding a crowd. After just one bite… You’ll say, “Oui!”

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