There is nothing better on this Earth than a really good Croque Madame. I had my first Croque Madame via room service in the Sofitel Hotel in Chicago. It was heavenly and I have been searching for one as good as that one in the US since. They have since taken it off the menu at the Sofitel, so the search goes on. (I did have a few while in France last year, and as with anything else, some were incredible and some were inedible.) All in all, it’s a hard sandwich to screw up – as long as you use the right ingredients – since it’s basically a grilled ham-and-cheese sandwich.
The original grilled sandwich, minus the fried egg on top, is known as a Croque Monsieur – which loosely translates into “Mister Crunch.” The Croque Madame has the fried egg, which resembles a little hat, or so the story goes. It is not true that a Croque Madame is made with chicken instead of ham or mornay sauce instead of béchamel. The only difference between the two is the egg – but to me it makes all the difference in the world.
- TRADITIONAL CROQUE MADAME
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma
- 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
- 1 Tbs. all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
- 8 slices sweet batard bread, each 1/2 inch thick
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 3 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 8 slices Black Forest or Jambon de Paris ham
- 4 oz. Gruyère cheese, grated
- 4 eggs
- Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 1 Tbs. of the butter. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is pale golden, about 3 minutes. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly. Simmer, continuing to whisk, until the sauce is smooth and thickened, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the 1/2 tsp. salt plus black pepper and nutmeg, to taste. Set the béchamel sauce aside.
- Preheat a panini press to 375ºF or medium according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Brush one side of each bread slice with oil. Place the slices, oiled side down, on a clean work surface. Spread the mustard on 4 of the slices and top each with 2 slices of ham, folding the ham if necessary to keep it even with the edges of the bread. Spread the béchamel sauce evenly over the ham and sprinkle the cheese on top, dividing evenly. Top each with one of the remaining bread slices, oiled side up.
- Place the sandwiches on the preheated panini press and cook according to the manufacturer’s instructions until golden and crispy, about 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a large fry pan over medium-high heat, melt the remaining 1 Tbs. butter. When the butter foams, break the eggs into the pan, spacing them about 1 inch apart. If using egg rings, spray the inside of 4 rings with nonstick cooking spray, place in the pan and break an egg into each ring. Season the eggs with salt and black pepper. Cook until the whites are firm, about 3 minutes. Remove the egg rings, if using. Flip the eggs over and continue cooking until the whites are cooked through but the yolks are still runny, about 1 minute more.
- Slide an egg onto each sandwich, sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately. Enjoy!