Delve into the heart of French culinary tradition with the iconic Croque Madame, a delightful variation of the well-loved Croque Monsieur (French pronunciation: [kʁɔk məsjø]). This warm and hearty sandwich, generously filled with ham and cheese, has been a cherished quick bite in French cafés and bars for over a century. The whimsical name stems from the French verb ‘croquer’ meaning “to crunch” and the word ‘monsieur’ translating to “mister,” portraying the sandwich’s crispy texture and perhaps a dash of humor from the French culture. The Croque Madame made its debut on a Parisian café menu in 1910, later immortalized in literature by Marcel Proust in his masterpiece, In Search of Lost Time, in 1918.
Across the pond in Britain and the United States, the Croque Madame embraces a slight twist, swapping the traditional ham for slices of tender chicken. However, the distinguishing feature of a Croque Madame from its Monsieur counterpart remains the crowning glory of a perfectly fried egg atop the sandwich.
Let’s embark on a culinary adventure to craft this French delicacy right in the comfort of your home. Gather the following ingredients, and you’re on your way to experiencing a bite of French history.
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 3 1/2 ounces coarsely grated Gruyère cheese (1 1/3 cups)
- 8 slices firm white sandwich bread
- 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1/2 pound thinly sliced cooked ham (preferably Black Forest)
- 4 large eggs
1. Preparing the Béchamel Sauce
- In a 1 to 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of butter over moderately low heat.
- Gently whisk in the flour, cooking the roux for about 3 minutes, ensuring it stays smooth.
- Gradually whisk in the milk, bringing it to a gentle boil while continuously whisking.
- Reduce the heat and let it simmer, whisking occasionally for about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the salt, pepper, nutmeg, and 1/3 cup of cheese, whisking until the cheese is fully melted.
- Remove from heat and cover the surface directly with a sheet of wax paper to keep it warm.
2. Crafting the Sandwiches
- Spread about 1 1/2 tablespoons of béchamel sauce evenly over 4 slices of bread, followed by an even sprinkle of the remaining cheese (1/4 cup per slice).
- On the other 4 slices of bread, spread the Dijon mustard evenly, top with ham slices, and then invert these onto the cheese-topped slices, forming the sandwiches.
- Lightly oil a 15- by 10-inch shallow baking pan.
- Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately low heat, and gently cook the sandwiches, flipping once, until they achieve a golden hue, about 3 to 4 minutes in total.
- Transfer the sandwiches to the baking pan and set aside. Wipe out the skillet with paper towels.
3. Broiling and Topping
- Preheat your broiler.
- Lavishly top each sandwich with 1/3 cup of béchamel sauce, spreading it evenly.
- Position the sandwiches 4 to 5 inches from the heat and broil until the sauce bubbles and turns golden in spots, around 2 to 3 minutes.
- Switch off the broiler and move the pan to the lower third of the oven to keep the sandwiches warm.
4. The Finishing Touch
- In the wiped skillet, melt the remaining tablespoon of butter over moderate heat.
- Crack the eggs into the skillet, seasoning with salt and pepper. Cover and fry until the whites are just set while the yolks remain runny, roughly 3 minutes.
- Grace each sandwich with a fried egg, serving immediately to enjoy the Croque Madame in its warm, crunchy, and gooey glory.
The egg yolks in this recipe are not fully cooked, which could be a concern if salmonella is an issue in your area. You can opt for pasteurized eggs or cook the eggs until the yolks are set to your preference.
Last Updated on 1 month by Evan White