Chances are that you’ve had a Croque Monsieur, the French take on grilled cheese sandwiches: bread, ham and cheese bonded with a generous dose of creamy bechamel sauce. But have you had Croque Monsieur’s better half, the Croque Madame?
A Croque Madame is essentially a grilled ham and cheese with an egg on top. Stab the yolk with your fork, and each subsequent bite is a symphony of cheese, ham and egg: ingredients that were meant to be together, just like Monsieur and Madame. Few things are not improved by a runny egg yolk, and Croque Madame is no exception.
The Croque Monsieur was first officially referenced by Marcel Proust in 1918 in his lengthy 15 volume A La Recherche du Temps Perdu. But I have not been able to dig up any rumors of the Croque Madame variation. I’m not sure why adding a fried egg on top of a sandwich makes it more feminine. On an American menu, the addition of eggs tends to earn a dish a big boy special nickname, but in France the egg makes it a feminine dish. Perhaps the Croque Madame is an homage to women tied to the fertility symbolism of the egg. But rather than ponder the deep hidden meaning of the Croque Madame, I’d rather tell you how to make it.
Purists will no doubt take issue with the fact that this Croque Madame is not topped by a Sauce Bechamel. It’s true, bechamel binds the sandwich together and takes it to an entire new level. But on a rainy Wednesday afternoon, with a sick baby on my hip, whipping up a quick bechamel sauce is just not in the cards. But consoling us both with a buttery brown quick and dirty Croque Madame is just what we both need.
- 2 Slices of Bread
- 2 Tablespoons of Butter
- 2 Thin Slices of Good Quality Ham
- 2 Slices of Cheddar Cheese
- 2 Slices of Muenster Cheese
- 1 Egg
- Melt one tablespoon of the butter in a saucepan on medium heat. Don't skimp! The butter makes this sandwich. Before it browns, add the bottom layer of bread.
- Top it with the cheddar, the ham, then the muenster. Cover with the last layer of bread.
- Press down with a spatula and cook for 2-3 minutes, until lightly browned.
- Remove the sandwich from the pan with the spatula and hold up in the air while you add the last tablespoon of butter. Melt. Carefully flip the sandwich and brown the second side, pressing down with the spatula, for another 2-3 minutes.
- Remove the sandwich from the pan, place on a plate, and cover with a second plate to keep warm.
- Crack the egg into the pan and fry, being careful not to break the yolk. Once the egg is cooked (the whites should not be runny, but the yolk should not be hard), carefully slide the egg onto the ham and cheese sandwich.
- Sit down immediately, spear the yolk, admire it as it glistens, and eat your sandwich. Enjoy!