Croques madames are a super guilty pleasure of mine. If you’ve never had one, a croque madame is basically a fancy pants ham and cheese sandwich. More precisely, it is a ham and cheese sandwich that has been slathered with a bechamel sauce, blanketed in melty cheese and topped with an egg. It’s pretty much heaven on a plate. While I love a good croque madame (and croque monsieur as well), I’d never actually made one before. So I looked up a recipe in a book I got for Christmas last year: Home Cooking with Jean-Georges: My Favorite Simple Recipes. Yes, this is the same treasure trove from which I obtained the corn pudding recipe earlier this year.

I made a half-recipe of the croque madame and they turned out scrumptious, although I need to work on the execution of the bechamel sauce. I would have preferred it slightly thinner. For purposes of planning, note the the sandwiches have to sit in the fridge for at least an hour. I made up the sandwiches the night before I wanted to eat them and let them sit in the fridge over night. Super good breakfast the next morning.

 

DSC_0723

 

Bechamel
1 1/2 C Whole milk
1/2 C half & half
pepper & kosher salt
nutmeg
3 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/3 C all purpose flour
2 large egg yolks
1/4 C Gruyere cheese, shredded
1/4 C Compte cheese, shredded

Sandwiches
8 slices bread, preferably good bread. Not wonder bread.
5 oz thinly slices ham
2/3 C shredded Gruyere
2/3 C shredded Compte
unsalted butter
4 eggs or 8 quail eggs
finishing salt & cayenne pepper

 

DSC_0754

Start out by making the bechamel sauce. Take out two sauce pans. In the first one, heat the milk and half & half with nutmeg, salt and pepper (1 pinch each). Heat the milk mixture until bubbles just barely start to form. Don’t let it get to a full boil.

Make a roux with the butter and flour in the second pan. Make sure to stir constantly as the roux cooks and turns a nice golden color.

Slowly pour the heated milk into the roux, whisking all the while. Bring the whole thing to a boil and then remove from heat.

DSC_0759

 

Whisk the egg yolks together and temper the eggs by slowly drizzling about a cup of the bechamel in with them while whisking the mixture. Then add the tempered eggs back into the pan with the rest of the sauce, again stirring all the while. Put back over low heat and cook. Add the cheeses. Once the cheese has melted and is incorporated, taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary.  Congratulations. You’ve made a bechamel! At this point you can let it cool and store it in the fridge for a while or you can use it right away.

DSC_0779

 

Assembling the Croque Madame: lay out a piece of parchment or waxed paper and set out the slice of bread in a single layer. Take the bechamel and start spreading it over the slices of bread. You want to actually slowly work the bechamel into the bread until the bread has soaked up almost all of the sauce. Don’t worry if it doesn’t seem to work at first, it just takes a little time. This is also why it is important to use good bread. Normal packaged bread is probably too delicate for this.

DSC_0783

 

When you can’t coax any more bechamel into the bread, divide the ham up between 4 slices of bread and top the ham with the rest of the bechamel sauce. Cover the ham with the remaining slices of bread, bechamel side facing up.

DSC_0787

 

Press the remaining shredded cheese into the tops of the sandwiches and then wrap them up in the parchments paper.

 

DSC_0795

Then seal it all up in saran wrap and let sit in the fridge for at least an hour. A day is better.

 

DSC_0796

 

When you are ready for the final stage of deliciousness, preheat the oven to 350º and unwrap the sandwiches. Now, at this point you are technically supposed to trim off  the crusts, but I didn’t bother. No one was ever hurt by a little crust. However, do slice the sandwiches in half on the diagonal.

Butter a baking dish and place the sandwich halves inside for baking.

 

DSC_0814

 

Bake at 350 degrees F for 10-15 minutes. At the 15 minute mark, my sandwich was clearly cooked, but the cheese wasn’t browning the way I wanted, so I turned on the broiler for a moment and the cheese bubbled right on up.

Towards the end of the sandwiches’ tenure in the oven, fry up some eggs. Make sure not to over cook the eggs. They are best when the yolk will run down over the cheesy sandwiches when cut into. So good.

Take the sandwiches out of the oven and top with the eggs. Et voila, crocque madame!

 


Croque Madame
 
Recipe By:
Ingredients
  • Bechamel
  • 1½ C Whole milk
  • ½ C half & half
  • pepper & kosher salt
  • nutmeg
  • 3½ tbsp unsalted butter
  • ⅓ C all purpose flour
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • ¼ C Gruyere cheese, shredded
  • ¼ C Compte cheese, shredded
  • Sandwiches
  • 8 slices bread, preferably good bread. Not wonder bread.
  • 5 oz thinly slices ham
  • ⅔ C shredded Gruyere
  • ⅔ C shredded Compte
  • unsalted butter
  • 4 eggs or 8 quail eggs
  • finishing salt & cayenne pepper
Instructions
  1. Start out by making the bechamel sauce. Take out two sauce pans. In the first one, heat the milk and half & half with nutmeg, salt and pepper (1 pinch each). Heat the milk mixture until bubbles just barely start to form. Don't let it get to a full boil.
  2. Make a roux with the butter and flour in the second pan. Make sure to stir constantly as the roux cooks and turns a nice golden color.
  3. Slowly pour the heated milk into the roux, whisking all the while. Bring the whole thing to a boil and then remove from heat.
  4. Whisk the egg yolks together and temper the eggs by slowly drizzling about a cup of the bechamel in with them while whisking the mixture. Then add the tempered eggs back into the pan with the rest of the sauce, again stirring all the while. Put back over low heat and cook. Add the cheeses. Once the cheese has melted and is incorporated, taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Congratulations. You've made a bechamel! At this point you can let it cool and store it in the fridge for a while or you can use it right away.
  5. Assembling the Croque Madame: lay out a piece of parchment or waxed paper and set out the slice of bread in a single layer. Take the bechamel and start spreading it over the slices of bread. You want to actually slowly work the bechamel into the bread until the bread has soaked up almost all of the sauce. Don't worry if it doesn't seem to work at first, it just takes a little time. This is also why it is important to use good bread. Normal packaged bread is probably too delicate for this.
  6. When you can't coax any more bechamel into the bread, divide the ham up between 4 slices of bread and top the ham with the rest of the bechamel sauce. Cover the ham with the remaining slices of bread, bechamel side facing up.
  7. Press the remaining shredded cheese into the tops of the sandwiches and then wrap them up in the parchments paper.
  8. Then seal it all up in saran wrap and let sit in the fridge for at least an hour. A day is better.
  9. When you are ready for the final stage of deliciousness, preheat the oven to 350º and unwrap the sandwiches. Now, at this point you are technically supposed to trim off the crusts, but I didn't bother. No one was ever hurt by a little crust. However, do slice the sandwiches in half on the diagonal.
  10. Butter a baking dish and place the sandwich halves inside for baking.
  11. Bake at 350 degrees F for 10-15 minutes. At the 15 minute mark, my sandwich was clearly cooked, but the cheese wasn't browning the way I wanted, so I turned on the broiler for a moment and the cheese bubbled right on up.
  12. Towards the end of the sandwiches' tenure in the oven, fry up some eggs. Make sure not to over cook the eggs. They are best when the yolk will run down over the cheesy sandwiches when cut into. So good.
  13. Take the sandwiches out of the oven and top with the eggs.