Croque Madame

croque 1

This year for Thanksgiving my boyfriend went over to his parents’ house. Instead of the usual turkey there was a giant and too delicious for words ham. Normally I am not a big ham eater. I can’t put my finger on why, it just never really appealed to me. But this ham, oh man this ham. It was so juicy and sweet and I could not get enough.

Naturally when I was making my leftover plate I stacked a ridiculous mountain of ham to take home with me. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but after a few days turned into “well now what am I supposed to do with this stuff?” Then I found myself thinking about a lot of people’s favorite part of Thanksgiving, the leftover sandwich. Obviously making a ham sandwich is a no-brainer so I knew that I had to make something special. Then it hit me, the croque madame.

The croque madame is one half of the French bistro style’s famous sandwich set, the other being the croque monsieur. Both sandwiches consist of ham, swiss or gruyere cheese, dijon mustard, and bechamel sauce with extra cheese and bechamel on top of the sandwich that go under the broiler. The one difference between the two is that the madame has a fried egg on top. The reason that having an egg on top makes the sandwich feminine? Apparently a sunny side up egg just so happens to resemble the fashion of lady’s hats at the time.

The good news is the sandwich is as delicious as its name origin is imaginative. It is a truly decadent sandwich that makes a fantastic and easy brunch dish. You immediately get hit with the richness of the cheese, bechamel, and egg yolk followed by the sweetness of the ham that pairs beautifully with the swiss cheese, but then the dijon comes in and cuts through all of the dairy to keep the sandwich from feeling too gluttonous. The croque madame is an exercise in how perfect just a simple sandwich can be when executed perfectly. And really, what is better than when you see this happen while eating?

croque 2

That right there is the very definition of food porn. Anyway, I can in all honesty say that I definitely made the most of my Thanksgiving leftovers and also have a new favorite sandwich named for female anatomy. Below is the recipe for the bechamel I made as well as how to fry the perfect egg and the sandwich assembly. Because what brunch would be complete without a French boob sandwich?

Bechamel Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon each thyme and nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste

Start the sauce by melting the butter over medium heat in a medium-sized saucepan. Once the butter is melted whisk in the flour until all lumps are gone to create a roux. Allow the roux to cook for about two to four minutes, you don’t want this roux to get very dark since we are making a lighter sauce. Once you are satisfied with where your roux is at add the milk and whisk until homogeneous. Add the spices and allow to cook over low heat for 3-5 minutes to allow to thicken slightly. If the sauce overthickens just add a splash more milk. Set aside.

Assembly:

Ingredients per sandwich:

  • 2 slices bread
  • 1/2 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 2-4 slices ham depending on thickness. For holiday ham I only needed two, but deli ham would need closer to 4
  • 2 slices swiss cheese
  • 1/4 cup of the bechamel
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Preheat your broiler. On a slice of bread in this order add the dijon mustard, ham, cheese, and bechamel. Add the butter to a small pan over low heat. All you’re doing here is cooking the bottom piece of bread the same way you would a grilled cheese. You’re only going to be cooking the bottom half this way since the top half is going to go under the broiler. Once the bottom slice of bread is done transfer the sandwich to a baking sheet, close it with the top slice of bread, and then top with more of the bechamel and other slice of cheese. Put it under the broiler until bubbly. It only takes about two to three minutes so be sure to keep an eye on it. While the sandwich broils you can cook your egg.

To cook the egg:

  • 1-2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 egg per sandwich
  • salt and pepper

Melt your butter over medium low heat in a small pan. Crack the egg straight into the pan, add salt and pepper, and just let it sit. After about 30 seconds the outer whites will set. When this happens tilt your pan so that the butter gathers to the edge of the pan, spoon some of this excess butter over the uncooked whites and yolk. It helps the whites cook a little faster and also adds a little more flavor to your egg. Spoon the butter over a few times just to be thorough. Allow the egg to sit again until the whites surrounding the yolk is cooked, about two to three minutes. Once the egg has finished cooking immediately put it on top of the sandwich and chow down.

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