What Is a Croque Madame?

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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.

Croque Madame is a delicious, easy and decadent take on the classic ham and cheese sandwich.
Croque Madame is a delicious, easy and decadent take on the classic ham and cheese sandwich. (Image: Thalia Ho)

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

Serves 4.

Measure out all of your ingredients before you begin.
Measure out all of your ingredients before you begin. (Image: Thalia Ho)

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.

The roux should be thick and pull away from the sides of the pan.
The roux should be thick and pull away from the sides of the pan. (Image: Thalia Ho)

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.

Whisk the bechamel sauce until smooth.
Whisk the bechamel sauce until smooth. (Image: Thalia Ho)

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 bread slice with Dijon mustard.
Spread each bread slice with Dijon mustard. (Image: Thalia Ho)

Spread each slice of bread with 1 to 2 tablespoons of bechamel sauce.

Spread each bread slice with bechamel sauce.
Spread each bread slice with bechamel sauce. (Image: Thalia Ho)

Add a piece of ham to each slice of bread.

Layer each bread slice with ham.
Layer each bread slice with ham. (Image: Thalia Ho)

Sprinkle half the cheese on top of the ham.

Sprinkle the cheese on top.
Sprinkle the cheese on top. (Image: Thalia Ho)

Top each portion with another slice of bread.

Cover with remaining bread to form sandwiches.
Cover with remaining bread to form sandwiches. (Image: Thalia Ho)

Step 4: Add Bechamel

Spread the top of the sandwiches with 1 tablespoon more of the remaining bechamel.

Cover the sandwiches with remaining bechamel sauce.
Cover the sandwiches with remaining bechamel sauce. (Image: Thalia Ho)

Step 5: Top With Cheese

Sprinkle the remainder of the cheese over the top, and then season with cracked salt and pepper.

Sprinkle the sandwiches with cheese, and then season.
Sprinkle the sandwiches with cheese, and then season. (Image: Thalia Ho)

Step 6: Bake

Bake until the sandwiches are golden-crisp and the cheese and bechamel are bubbling away -- about 15 to 20 minutes.

Bake the sandwiches until golden.
Bake the sandwiches until golden. (Image: Thalia Ho)

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.

A Croque Madame served.
A Croque Madame served. (Image: Thalia Ho)

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.

A Croque Monsieur served.
A Croque Monsieur served. (Image: Thalia Ho)

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.

The Croque Madame is a rich dish.
The Croque Madame is a rich dish. (Image: Thalia Ho)
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