A little history about Croque Monsieur first (Again, I am married to a Frenchi):
Croque-Monsieur was originally a melted cheese and ham sandwich sautéed in butter. Eventually other Parisian cafés began serving their own vearsions to the point where the sandwich evolved to the way it is served today, with a topping of béchamel sauce, grated cheese, then run under the broiler until bubbly and golden. The croque-madame is a variation of croque- monsieur which features a fried egg on top. Croque means “bite” according to my husband, so it is also important for the bread to be crunchy while the inside is oozy with melted cheese.
What you need: Saucepan, Toaster, Baking sheet, skillet
How to make it:
4 tablespoons (60g) butter
4 tablespoons (30g) flour
1 cup (240ml) milk
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 dashes ground nutmeg
8 slices sandwich bread
4 slices ham
3 cups (300g) Gruyère cheese
4 large eggs, room temperature
Preheat oven to 450 F (230 C)
In the saucepan, melt the butter, add the flour and whisk well. Slowly whisk in milk and cook until thickened. Whisk in mustard and nutmeg. Set aside. Lightly toast the bread in the toaster. Place 4 slices on the baking sheet. Spread a little sauce on the slices and top with a piece of ham . Place 1/2 cup (50g) cheese on each slice of ham then top with the remaining slices of bread.
Evenly divide the rest of the sauce over the top of the sandwich, add the remaining cheese, and bake for 5 minutes. While the sandwiches are baking, fry the eggs in the skillet (this is for the Croque Madame only).
Turn off the oven and preheat the broiler. Run the sandwiches under the broiler until they are bubbly and slightly browned. Top each with a fried egg and serve hot. (Crocque Madame)
Ideas and substitutions:
Serve the sandwiches with simple green salad for a light lunch or dinner. Tonight I added a little Caprese Salad (mozzarella, tomatoes, basil with vinegar, oil, salt and pepper).
Optional additions to béchamel sauce: finely chopped onion, fresh tarragon, or parsley.