In honour of mom's everywhere, we are sharing a recipe for one of our favourite sandwiches - the Croque Madame. If you've never had a croque madame before, you are in for a treat. This sandwich originates in the bars and cafes of France and begins as a "Croque Monsieur", but when you pop a fried egg on top you transform into a Croque Madame. It requires a knife and fork to eat this outrageously cheesy sandwich and is perfect as a lunch or light dinner. Serve it with spring greens tossed with a light vinaigrette (and perhaps a glass of rosé). Happy Mother's Day everyone.
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup milk
- Pinch salt and nutmeg
- Freshly ground white pepper
- 1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese
- 4 slices day old white country-style/sourdough bread
- 4 tbsp butter at room temperature, divided
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 4 - 6 slices ham
- 1/2 cup grated Gruyère cheese
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 eggs, optional
- Béchamel: In a small pot or pan over medium heat melt butter. Stir in flour to form a paste (called a roux) then very gradually pour in milk, whisking as you go to avoid any lumps forming. Stir in salt, nutmeg and white pepper, then stir in 1/2 cup Gruyère until it fully melts. Remove from heat.
- Preheat oven broiler to 400 F. Heat a non-stick oven-proof pan, (preferably a cast-iron), over medium heat on the stovetop.
- Sandwiches: Spread 4 slices of bread with softened butter, then flip over and spread with a thin layer of dijon mustard. Place 2 slices of bread, butter side down in the pan. Spread 1 tbsp of béchamel onto each slice of bread in the pan. Top with 2 - 3 slices of ham and 1/4 cup of the remaining grated cheese.
- Spread 1 tbsp of the béchamel over the Dijon-side of remaining bread slices and place them, mustard-side-down, over the ham and cheese (so both sandwiches are buttered on the outside). Cook for 2 minutes, or until the bottom of the sandwiches are golden then turn the sandwiches to the other side and gently press down with a spatula (or use a panini press). Cook for another 2-3 minutes or until the cheese inside has melted and the bottom of the sandwiches are golden.
- Top each sandwich with 2 tbsp of the remaining béchamel-cheese sauce and sprinkle with grated Parmesan. Transfer to the oven and broil, for 1 to 2 minutes or until the topping is golden and bubbly.
- Optional: Meanwhile, in same skillet, melt remaining butter. Crack eggs into pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until eggs are sunny side up for 3 minutes or until desired doneness. Top each sandwich with fried egg and serve.
Makes 2 servings
Tips For Making A Perfect Croque Monsieur/Madame
- Béchamel: One of the most important layers of the croque is the béchamel sauce. A true croque uses both béchamel inside the sandwich as well as on top. Some recipes leave the Gruyere cheese off the top of the sandwich, but it is essential both inside and melted on the top. A little Parmesan sprinkled on top guarantees a cheesy, bubbly goodness.
- Using nutmeg brings out the nutty flavour of the Gruyere and white pepper offers a gentle background heat. White pepper is often used in béchamel sauce because it blends better than black pepper.
- Bread: Use a sturdy bread like sourdough and slice it fairly thickly. This sandwich needs a strong structure to hold it all together once the cheese melts.
- Butter: In order to achieve the "crunch" that a true croque is named for, spread the outside of the bread with butter, just as you would a grilled cheese.
- Dijon: Just a little slather goes a long way!
- Ham: Use a good quality ham and fold it over when you add it to the sandwich so it gives a bit of height and texture to the sandwich.
- Cheese: If you're not a fan of the pungent flavours of Gruyère, feel free to opt for milder Comté.