A few months back, I published a recipe for Croque Monsieur on Lindaraxa's Garden. This is a variation of the original and is called a Croque Madame, because it is served with a fried egg on top. It is quite simple to make, especially if you have some leftover bechamel. Just save it in the refrigerator, add a little milk before you warm it up and stir until it almost comes to a boil again. You can buy French ham in the deli of many grocery stores today. Just ask them to slice it very thin.
• 3 T unsalted butter
• ¼ cup all-purpose flour
• 3 cups whole milk
• Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
• Salt and freshly ground white pepper
• 8 slices high-quality Pullman loaf bread, sliced ⅓- to ½-inch thick
• 12 oz. thinly sliced jambon de Paris (high-quality wet-cured ham)
• 10 oz. Gruyère cheese, coarsely grated
• 4 whole eggs (for the madame)
In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter and whisk in the flour until blended but not colored. Gradually whisk in the milk and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Set aside. (This may be made up to 24 hours ahead and refrigerated with a layer of plastic wrap placed directly on the surface; gently reheat before serving.)
Preheat oven to 400°F. Place bread slices in a single layer and spread each evenly to the edges with béchamel (all the béchamel may not be needed). Divide ham among four of the slices, trimming if necessary so it is within ¼ inch of the edges. Top all eight slices with equal amounts of grated cheese, spreading evenly to within ¼ inch of the edges.
Place the four bread slices with béchamel and Gruyère, cheese side up, on top of slices layered with ham. Transfer sandwiches to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Bake until cheese topping is melted and golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes.
To make a croque-madame, fry eggs sunny-side up and place one on top of each finished sandwich. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve immediately. Serves 4.
Photo Credit: Kate Sears/Sublime Management