Sometimes, massive amounts of butter, tons of cheese and the stomach ache that is sure to ensue is simply just worth it. Case in point–the Croque Madame.
I had heard about this French staple for some time and a few months ago saw Ina make it on the Food Network. It seemed so much easier than I had imagined! The sandwich she made looked so delicious that I added to my never-ending “to cook” list. Why does a little thing like a fried egg atop some bread suddenly and always transform a sandwich’s appeal?
I don’t know. But I do know that this sandwich was so much more delectable than I can say. I know in food writing you’re not supposed to say “delectable” or delicious or tasty because readers want to know what and why and how and want better adjectives. But this was just so delicious and delectable I can’t even come up with a better word! (Cue Will Ferrell as the Actor’s Studio guy on SNL coining the made-up word “scrumtrulescent.”)
The Croque-Madame might be my perfect sandwich. It was savory with the ham and egg, the bread was squishy in the middle but the crust retained its crunch, and that little bit of Dijon played against the Gruyere cheese and cheese sauce remarkably well. AND it was FUN to make! Isn’t that what cooking is all about!?
The recipe is from Gourmet.
- 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
For the sauce, melt 3 tablespoons butter in a 1- to 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, then whisk in flour and cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes. Whisk in milk and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 5 minutes. Whisk in salt, pepper, nutmeg, and 1/3 cup cheese until cheese is melted. Remove from heat and cover surface directly with a sheet of wax paper.
To assemble the sandwiches, spread 1 1/2 tablespoons sauce evenly over each of 4 slices of bread, then sprinkle evenly with remaining cheese (1/4 cup per slice). Spread mustard evenly on remaining 4 bread slices and top with ham, dividing it evenly, then invert onto cheese-topped bread to form sandwiches.
Lightly oil a 15- by 10-inch shallow baking pan.
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately low heat, then cook sandwiches, turning over once, until golden, 3 to 4 minutes total. Remove from heat and transfer sandwiches to baking pan, then wipe out skillet with paper towels.
Top each sandwich with 1/3 cup sauce, spreading evenly. Broil sandwiches 4 to 5 inches from heat until sauce is bubbling and golden in spots, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn off broiler and transfer pan to lower third of oven to keep sandwiches warm.
Heat remaining tablespoon butter in nonstick skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides, then crack eggs into skillet and season with salt and pepper. Fry eggs, covered, until whites are just set and yolks are still runny, about 3 minutes. Top each sandwich with a fried egg and serve immediately.