The Everyman's Croque-Madame

I had my first croque-madame a few months ago at this lovely cafe on the Amstel called Ysbreeker.  It was also the first real French food I'd ever had and I was instantly in love.  A croque-madame is something like a grilled ham and cheese, except ten times better because it's smothered in white sauce and topped with an over-easy egg.  It's a step up from the slightly more popular croque-monsieur, which is the same thing minus the egg.

I just had to learn how to make this wonderful sandwich in my own kitchen, but I soon learned that it's a bit fancier than my typical repertoire- mostly because it's supposed to be topped with a Mornay or Bechamel sauce, which is sort of like a roux with cheese mixed in.  Now, I've seen a couple of sites which claim that a roux or bechamel is an easy creation, but in my book, anything that involves whisking a specific proportion of flour into "scalded" milk is not easy.  Actually, anything that involves flour, cornstarch, baking soda or the like are automatically filed in my not-easy category.  I don't even keep these things in my kitchen.

At any rate, I have thus developed an OntheFly version which replaces the French white sauce with a much simpler out-of-a-packet cheese sauce which, to my oh-so-refined tastes, comes out just the same as the one in the cafe.  The other hang-up is the cheese.  The sandwich is typically made with emmental, gruyere or, in the case of this Dutch cafe, beemster (gouda) cheese.  Here in the land of cheese, shredded gouda is everywhere you look, but outside of Holland and Europe, you should be able to find it, but it won't be conveniently pre-shredded.  The key is really that the cheese is strong, so a shredded or sliced swiss or even sharp cheddar will probably do the trick!

[Prep: -- / Cook: 10-20m]

- 2 slices of bread (works best with white)
- 1 egg
- 1 or 2 slices of deli ham
- ~1/2 small packet white cheese sauce mix (such as McCormick's alfredo, 4 cheese or carbonara)
- 1/2 cup milk
- shredded cheese
- butter/margarine

1.  In a small saucepan, mix the cheese sauce with the milk and bring to a boil.  You may want to add even as much as 1/4 cup more milk because the sauce really thickens up as you're putting the sandwich together.
2.  Heat a dab of butter in a smal pan and place one of the slices of bread down.  Spoon on some of the cheese sauce to coat the bread.  Then, add shredded cheese and a slice of ham.
3.  Put the second slice of bread on top and after about a minute, flip and grill for only a minute or two more.
4.  Remove the sandwich to a plate and while the pan is still hot, add a dab more butter and quickly fry an over-easy egg.  Crack the egg in the pan and once the white is solid and opaque (about 2-3m), flip and cook for about 30s-1m longer.
5.  While the egg is frying, completely saturate the sandwich with the cheese sauce and then coat with a layer of shredded cheese.  Top with the over-easy egg.
6.  Ready to eat!

  • What really makes this sandwich so excellent is the combination of the runny egg yolk, cheese sauce and soggy bread.  That being said, I've ruined the dish over and over again by over-cooking the egg or breaking the yolk somehow.  An easier alternative may be to just go with the egg completely sunny-side up,  ie: only cook the egg on one side until the white is really solid.

No comments:

Post a Comment