Lift an ordinary toasted ham and cheese sandwich to "gourmet" status by making a traditional Croque Madame. Laden with rustic French charm, a classic Croque Madame is essentially a ham and cheese sandwich that's covered in a smooth and creamy bechamel sauce and topped with a gooey egg. Variations of the sandwich include the Croque Monsieur, which omits the egg, and you can opt to make either decadent classic with this simple recipe.
Things You'll Need
- 1/4 cup + 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 8 slices of bread
- 4 slices of ham or another cured meat
- 1 cup grated Gruyere (or another strong cheese such as cheddar or Parmesan), divided in half
- 4 eggs
- Salt and pepper
Step 1: Make a Roux
To create the bechamel sauce, melt 1/4 cup of the unsalted butter in a medium saucepan until it begins to foam. Add the flour and whisk constantly to form a roux -- working until the mixture is combined, thick and pulls away from the sides of the pan.
Step 2: Add the Liquids
Gradually whisk in the milk, stirring until smooth. Continue to cook until the sauce is thick and elastic, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, and then whisk in 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard and the nutmeg.
Season to taste. Cover the surface directly with plastic wrap, and set aside until needed.
Step 3: Build the Sandwiches
Heat your oven to 400 F / 200 C.
Arrange 4 slices of the bread on a parchment-lined baking tray, and lightly spread half of a tablespoon of Dijon mustard over each.
Spread each slice of bread with 1 to 2 tablespoons of bechamel sauce.
Add a piece of ham to each slice of bread.
Sprinkle half the cheese on top of the ham.
Top each portion with another slice of bread.
Step 4: Add Bechamel
Spread the top of the sandwiches with 1 tablespoon more of the remaining bechamel.
Step 5: Top With Cheese
Sprinkle the remainder of the cheese over the top, and then season with cracked salt and pepper.
Step 6: Bake
Bake until the sandwiches are golden-crisp and the cheese and bechamel are bubbling away -- about 15 to 20 minutes.
Step 7: Cook the Eggs
While the sandwiches are baking, heat the remaining butter in a frying pan, and cook the eggs sunny-side-up until their bases are crisp and the whites are set but the yolks are still runny.
When you remove the toasts from the oven, top each with a fried egg.
If you desire a traditional Croque Monsieur (without an egg), simply remove the toasts from the oven and serve immediately.
Accompany this dish with a dash of good quality relish or savory jam, extra Dijon mustard or a small green salad to cut through the richness.