Friday, April 6, 2012

Croque Madame

I'm of the impression, though I haven't been there in almost 10 years (good gravy, has it been that long?!?), that you can sit down in any Parisian cafe and order this delightfully delicious concoction. But save yourself the airfare, because you can make it at home. Easily.

It sounds like fancy bistro food, but it's really just a dressed up grilled cheese sandwich with bechamel and a fried egg on top. If you're thinking that it sounds heavenly, you are right.

It's also the perfect breakfast or brunch for Easter -- complete with the traditional ham! We like it for a simple Sunday dinner with a spinach salad on the side. It's oh, so comforting, and a little fancy, but not fussy. I don't do fussy.

Croque Madame

for the sandwiches
8 slices good-quality white bread
8 slices deli ham
4 slices Swiss cheese (Gruyere is even better, if you want to make it extra special)
Dijon mustard

for the bechamel sauce
1/2 c. butter, plus more to butter bread
1/2 c. flour
3 c. milk or half & half
dash of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

4 eggs, fried over easy or sunny-side-up

Preheat griddle over medium heat. While that's working, assemble the sandwiches: Butter one side of each slice of bread. Spread the other half of 4 of the slices with a thin layer of Dijon mustard, then layer ham and cheese, and top with the other slice of bread (butter sides out). Place sandwiches on griddle, and toast a couple of minutes on each side, until crispy, golden brown on the outside and the cheese has melted inside.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add in flour and cook for a minute or two. Season with salt and pepper, then whisk in milk. Turn heat up to medium-high, and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened. Stir in a dash of nutmeg. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Pour some sauce over each sandwich, and top with an egg. Don't forget to serve with a knife and fork! This definitely isn't finger food.

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