Dish of the Week: Croque-Madame

Brasserie 19's croque madame is no joke.
Brasserie 19's croque madame is no joke.
Photo by Brooke Viggiano

From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. Find other dishes of the week here.

This week, we're covering a French bistro staple: the Croque-Madame.

A croque-madame is a version of the simple bistro sandwich croque-monsieur, which is a ham and cheese sandwich that is sautéed in butter and topped with cheesy béchamel sauce. While both sandwiches are typically made using good-quality ham and Gruyère or Emmental cheese, the madame version ups the ante by adding a poached or lightly fried egg to the already decadent affair.

Dubbed the "Crispy Mr." and the "Crispy Mrs.," the names are derived from the French verb croquer, meaning "to crunch," with monsieur meaning "mister" and madame meaning "mistress." Now a popular cafe snack, the croque-monsieur's first recorded appearance dates back to a Parisian cafe in 1910.

Today, many variations of the sandwiches exist, including a croque norvégien with salmon, a croque provençal with tomato and even a croque Hawaiian, made with pineapple.

This recipe, from Alex Guarnaschelli, incorporates Parmesan and Gruyère into the béchamel for extra richness. After being layered with ham and béchamel, the sandwiches are topped with extra béchamel and Gruyère before bring broiled till crisp and bubbly. Feel free to add a smear of Dijon for extra zest.

Croque-Madame

Ingredients makes 4 sandwiches 6 oz unsalted butter, divided 2 tbsp flour 1 cup whole milk 1 bay leaf 1/2 tsp kosher salt, plus more for seasoning 1/4 cup grated Parmesan 8 slices thick sourdough bread 8 to 12 slices good quality ham (about 3/4 pound) 12 oz Gruyère cheese, grated, divided Nonstick spray 4 eggs Optional: Dijon mustard

Directions:

Preheat the broiler.

To make the béchamel sauce: In a small saucepan, melt 1 ounce butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until you smell the flour and butter cooking, about 2 to 3 minutes. Do not allow it to brown. Add the milk and bay leaf and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens like a soup, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and stir in the Parmesan. Transfer to a bowl to cool.

Arrange 4 slices of the bread on a flat surface (if using Dijon, spread a little onto each slice now). Top each with 2 to 3 slices of ham. Mix together half of the Gruyère cheese and the béchamel sauce. Taste for seasoning. Spread a little of the sauce on top of the ham and top each with another slice of bread.

Heat a large cast-iron skillet and, when hot, add half of the remaining butter. Add 2 of the sandwiches and brown on one side, 2 minutes. Turn on the other side and brown 2 more minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet and repeat with the remaining butter and sandwiches. Spread the remaining béchamel on top of the sandwiches and top with the other half of the Gruyère cheese.

Wipe any crumbs from the cast-iron skillet and spray with nonstick spray. Crack 4 eggs into the skillet, leaving a little room between each (or fry 2 at a time). While the eggs are frying, place the sandwiches under the broiler and broil until the top becomes golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Season the eggs with salt and top each sandwich with a fried egg. Serve immediately.


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