Food and Drink Blog: A crack-a-lackin’ Croque-Madame

People often have an impression of French cuisine as being overly sophisticated, employing obscure, expensive ingredients with techniques requiring a culinary school degree. This couldn’t be further from the truth. While high-profile French chefs have historically been at the forefront of culinary innovation, many classic dishes are born from the humble and modest countryside. Bistros are to France what diners are to North America: good, comforting meals where the wait staff won’t mind if you show up hungover for brunch.

The Croque-Madame is the ultimate grilled cheese sandwich, perfect for the next stress-filled weeks and doubles as a great hangover remedy. For a slightly less decadent Croque-Monsieur, skip the fried egg on top.

 

Ingredients (for two sandwiches)

  • Sliced bread of your choice (bakery loaves are best, but any sandwich bread will do)
  • Grated/sliced cheese, again of your choice (think Cheddar, Swiss, Gruyere, etc.)
  • Thinly sliced ham
  • Two tablespoons butter, plus extra for the bread
  • Two tablespoons white flour
  • Nutmeg (powdered or, ideally, freshly grated)
  • One cup milk, ideally whole
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Two eggs

 

Method

  1. Spread softened butter over your bread slices, before filling your sandwich with a liberal serving of cheese and ham. This dish is best messy, so feel free to go overboard with the cheese.
  2. On a pan set over medium-low heat, place your two sandwiches and allow them to toast slowly.
  3. While waiting for that golden-brown color, prepare a bechamel sauce. In a small pot, melt two tablespoons butter over medium heat. When foaming, add in the flour and whisk to mix well. This is a roux, and forms the base of many sauces. After a minute or so, your roux should be fragrant, at which point slowly pour in the milk while whisking constantly to avoid lumps.  Add in a small pinch of nutmeg along with pepper and salt, and cook until the sauce coats the back of a spoon.
  4. Once both sides of your sandwiches are a beautiful golden-brown color, remove from your pan and transfer to a baking tray. Turn on your oven’s broiler.
  5. Pour the bechamel on top (again, feel free to make a mess), and cover the sauce with a large heap of cheese, which will prevent the sauce from burning. It might seem like a lot, but it will flatten down once it’s under the broiler.
  6. While your sandwiches are under the broiler, make two fried eggs. Keep an eye on your oven, you want the cheese to have caramelized brown spots without being burnt.
  7. Take your sandwiches out of the broiler, and slide the eggs over each one. Voilà.

Photo by Meagan Casalino