RECIPE: Monsieur, Madame, Ferdinand
I’ve lived in northern New Jersey my entire life before coming up here to Boston. Within walking distance of my house, there were at least three diners that were open 24 hours. There are a couple diners around Boston, but they’re scattered here and there and are not what I am accustomed to (SoundBites doesn’t even serve milkshakes!). Diner runs with friends were usually late at night to get breakfast food, since breakfast is best at 1AM. So what to do when I get that breakfast food craving here in the greater Boston area with nowhere to eat? I guess I just have to make my own breakfast. I decided on making a croque madame, the classy, French version of America’s grilled cheese.
The croque madame is adapted from the croque monsieur, which is a hot ham and cheese grilled sandwich. The sandwich is topped with a mornay sauce, which is a cream sauce with cheese added. The difference between a croque madame and a croquet monsieur is that the croque madame is topped with a fried egg with a runny yolk that makes everything come together so perfectly. The quality of the sandwich will depend on the quality of the ingredients. If you want something amazing, use really good cheese, ham, and bread. Being a college student, I went with what I could get (and make many sandwiches from) at the local supermarket.
Adapted from: the meaning of pie
- Makes 2 sandwiches
- 4 slices of Italian bread
- 2 tsp of Dijon mustard, with grains
- 8-10 slices of honey ham (any amount of any type works)
- ¾ cup shredded Swiss cheese
- 3 tbs unsalted butter
- 2 tbs all purpose flour
- 1 cup milk
- 2 large eggs
- salt & pepper
To make the sauce: Melt 2 tbs of butter in a saucepan. Add 3 tbs of flour and mix until smooth using a whisk. Continue whisking for 2 minutes until the roux is cooked. Then add the milk while whisking constantly and bring the mixture to the boil. Reduce the heat and allow the sauce to simmer for 3 minutes, whisking periodically. Remove the sauce from the heat! Add ½ cup of the Swiss cheese along with salt, and pepper to taste. Stir until the cheese is melted and the sauce is combined, it will be slightly thick with a melted cheese consistency.
To assemble the sandwich: For each sandwich, apply a tsp of mustard to one side of the bread. Pile the ham on top of the mustard. On the other slice, spoon a tablespoon or two of the mornay sauce and spread it evenly. Top this side with 1 tbs of shredded Swiss cheese. Combine the two sides to form the sandwich.
Preheat the broiler.
Melt 1 tbs of butter on a non-stick pan. Place the sandwiches on the pan and cook them on each side until they are golden brown. Remove the sandwiches and place them into a baking dish. Clean the bits off the pan using a paper towel and fry up 2 eggs—slowly just on one side until the whites are cooked. While the eggs are cooking, spoon some remaining cheese sauce on top of each sandwich. Place the sandwich dish in the broiler for about 2 minutes or until the sauce is browned and bubbly. Make sure to watch this closely when close to 2 minutes! The broiler can quickly burn the cheese. Turn off the broiler and if the eggs are still cooking leave the baking dish in the oven so that it stays warm.
When the eggs are fried, remove the sandwich from the oven and place on a plate. Place one egg on top of each sandwich (don’t break the yolk yet!). Eat while warm.
The sandwiches were really good and definitely hit the “I want breakfast food” spot that comes around now and then. Making the sauce and broiling the sandwich is a process, but the product is delicious. The cheese sauce is warm and smooth and definitely makes this different from an American grilled cheese sandwich. The bitter mustard cut the saltiness of the ham and the nice crunchy bread was really good. The egg with a runny yolk made everything about this better, too. It definitely takes some time and effort, so if you’re in a rush and want something to-go, don’t bother making this. But if you have some time to spare and want to savor a hearty sandwich, try your hand at making a croque madame and don’t be scared to adjust the ingredients how you like. Comfort food at its best!
– Christina Pan