|I had heard of the croque-monsieur sandwich often in the past year or so.. apparently it's making the rounds in the foodie-blog world, since that's where I discover many foods I'd never heard of before. It sounded intriguing, something I might want to try one day, but nothing to add to the MUST MAKE list. I mean seriously, it's a grilled ham & cheese sammie. No big whoop.|
And then I was going through some magazine last week - for the life of me I can't remember what it was called - and saw this photo of the most awesome looking sandwich I'd ever seen. It had a fried egg on top! I don't think I've ever spoke of my obsession? fascination? complete and utter GLEE when it comes to the fried egg, specifically the yolk. But there's a twist. Yes, I love fried eggs for breakfast (or dinner) with the usual accoutrements - buttered toast, sausage or bacon, hashbrowns, you know.. heart attack on a plate? :) But this obsession - fascination - complete and utter glee that I feel when I see something topped with a friend egg, that normally wouldn't be topped with an egg.. I just.. can't find the words without sounding gross. Salivate upon seeing oozing yolk is what it is, but frankly, I just grossed myself out by saying that. Salivate and oozing really shouldn't be in the same sentence. Hopefully you yolk lovers out there will get where I'm coming from.. if not.. maybe try to block out what you've just read by closing your eyes tightly and singing LA LA LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU MISS GROSS-Y MCGROSSTER extremely loudly until the images go away. :P
It was the mental vision of a crispy baked sammie loaded with cheese and that broken yolk oozing (I can't stop with the fakkin oozing! Someone give me a better word for crissakes - and don't say "runny" cuz that squicks me out too!) down the side of it that had me in such a tizz.. hell it could have been a rabbit turd & peat moss sandwich and I would have been drooling all because of that egg. I once saw a salad made of greens, roasted sweet potato chunks and a big old fried egg on top and although I haven't made it YET, I still drool over the thought of it. A salad with roasted chunks of sweet potato for crissakes? All because of that
As I read the intro to the recipe and realized it was a croque-monsieur with a fried egg thrown on top, the sandwich jettisoned to the MUST MAKE list tout de suite. So I ripped the pages out, brought it home to show hubbs and he agreed, we needed to have this for dinner ASAP.
Basically, if ya'll haven't heard of the croque-monsieur, it's ham & cheese (usually gruyère or emmental) between two slices of bread that have been slathered with a bechamel sauce, and then more cheese on top. It's baked until the edges are lightly browned and the cheese is melty and bubbly. Once it comes out of the oven, you slap a fried egg on top to create the croque-madame, throw a nice salad next to it and call it heaven on a plate.
I made a few changes to the recipe. I couldn't find the jambon de Paris ham it called for, so I used prosciutto. I'm not a big bechamel sauce by itself kinda gal, so I decided to doctor it up by tossing in a couple generous handfuls of gruyère (I still had quite a bit left over from the bread) and just the barest peench of ground mustard. I used a loaf of French miche, which I bought at Panera - miche, I assume, means fakking huge. It's a very large square loaf of French bread just perfect for grilling, baking, toasting and of course, making a croque-madame. :)
Hubbs made a cucumber, tomato, olive & red onion salad in balsamic vinaigrette to go with and I think that's really a must. At least for us.. this sammie is rich, kids. It definitely needs a salad or other light side with it. I had considered frying potatoes & onions, making our dinner more breakfast-like, but am glad that I didn't.
So who doesn't like a ham & cheese sammie, eh? I like them, they are O.K., not my favorite but I've eaten many in my day. Who hasn't? Feel about the same way? Kinda meh? Yeah well.. make this kicked up hot ham & cheese sandwich and I doubt you'll ever go back to the usual. We were both amazed at how good this was. Admittedly, the prosciutto wasn't the right ham. It was too salty, but that still didn't take away much from the sandwich in whole. And it was fun to eat a "gourmet" hot ham & cheese with a fork & knife! I suppose you could pick it up and eat it as you would any other sammie, but it'd be kinda messy.. but hey, if that's your thing, go for it. ;)
I urge you all to go out and buy a good ham that's not too salty, a big chunk of gruyère or emmental (I'm sure Swiss would be just fine) and a dozen eggs and get to making this for your dinner this week - and then throw it into your rotation every once in a while. It's a bit of a splurge both in price and calories, but you won't be sorry after you take that first bite. Trust me. SO. FAKKIN. GOOD.
Croque Monsieur or Madame
For Bechamel sauce:
3 TBS. butter
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
3 c. whole milk (I used fat-free and it came out just fine)
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Salt & white ground pepper to taste
For the sandwiches:
8 slices high-quality bread. (the recipe called for "Pullman" loaf, I used French) sliced 1/3 to 1/2 inch thick.
12 oz. thinly sliced jambon de Paris (high quality wet-cured ham, not too salty)
10 oz. Gruyère cheese, coarsely grated
4 whole eggs (for the madame)
Over low heat, in a small saucepan, melt butter then whisk in flour until blended. Continue to whisk while pouring in milk to avoid lumps. Continue to cook, stirring constantly until thickened. This should take about 10 minutes. (If you are only making enough for 2 the sauce thickened within 2 minutes) Once thickened, season with nutmeg, salt & pepper. (This is where I added a couple handfuls of grated gruyère and the smallest pinch of ground mustard) Take off heat, set aside.
The recipe says you can make the bechamel sauce up to 24 hours early. Place plastic wrap directly on the sauce so it won't form a skin, then refrigerate. Gently reheat a few minutes before you are going to use it.
Preheat the oven to 400º F.
Place the 8 slices of bread in a single layer on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Spread the bechamel sauce evenly to the edges of all the slices (you may not need all of the bechamel). Divide ham between only 4 slices covered with bechamel, keeping the ham within 1/4 inch of the edges.
Top all 8 slices with equal amounts of grated gruyère cheese, again spreading it evenly within 1/4 inch of the edges. Place the 4 slices with bechamel and cheese (cheese side up!) on top of the slices layered with ham. Bake until cheese topping is melted and golden brown about 10 to 15 minutes (it took about 20 minutes in my oven)
To make the croque-madame, fry 4 eggs sunny-side up (I went with over easy, because egg slime is A VERY BAD THING) and place one on top of each sandwich. Sprinkle with salt & pepper and serve immediately.