The Croque Monsieur is a rich, cheesy baked sandwich originating in France. Traditionally made using sliced ham, Gruyere cheese and the classic French mother sauce, Bechamel. The Croque Madame is the same thing but with a fried egg on top. This version is a little more simple, and has most of those classic ingredients contained inside a single slice of bread. Croque Madame Toast is a perfect breakfast or brunch dish on a cool Autumn or Winter day. This is a simple dish and as with all simple food, and food in general, better ingredients make for better eating. See the recipe notes on the eggs and substitutions for them.
Yield: 4 meal-sized toasts
For the Bechamel
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/4 cup small diced onion
3 1/2 Tbsp. flour
2 cups whole milk
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg, use fresh ground if possible
1 pinch of freshly ground white pepper
For the Toast:
4 – 1 inch thick slices of bread cut from a loaf 8 inches wide and 4 inches thick
2 1/2 cups finely shredded Gruyere cheese, reserve 1/2 cup for garnish at the end.
4 oz of thinly sliced or finely chopped ham
4 large eggs
1 stick of butter. softened
2 Tbsp. minced chives
For the sauce:
Melt the butter on low heat. Add onions and cook until translucent, this will take about 5 minutes.
Stir in flour and cook for 3 minutes to form a roux. Don’t let it brown or it will turn your sauce brown.
Stir in the milk and seasoning. Continue to cook on low heat stirring often so the bottom doesn’t scorch. Bring the sauce up to a simmer. As the sauce gets hot it will thicken.
When the sauce has started to simmer turn the heat down so it is barely bubbling and continue to cook and stir frequently for 5 minutes. This 5 minutes of cooking will help remove the flour taste.
Give it a taste to make sure you like it. Set it aside and keep it hot.
You can make this the day before and keep it in the fridge overnight. Place a piece of plastic film directly on top of the sauce so it won’t form a skin. It will be thicker the next day so add a splash of milk to the sauce when you reheat it.
For the Toast:
The best utensil to cook these toasts on is an electric griddle that has a temperature control, or a griddle pan that goes on your stove top. If you don’t have either of those use your largest, flattest nonstick skillet or well seasoned cast iron pan.
Preheat your griddle to 350 degrees or other pans on medium heat.
Using a small sharp knife cut out the center of the bread leaving a one inch border.
Leave the cut center inside and butter both sides of the bread.
Carefully remove the centers and place all of the bread on the griddle.
Drop a small piece of butter in and sprinkle 1/4 cup of the cheese over the bottom of each hole.
Push 1/2 oz of the ham onto the top of the cheese.
Crack an egg onto each piece of ham
Place another 1/2 oz of ham on each egg.
Sprinkle the remaining cheese evenly over the top of the ham
Let cook for about 5 minutes then quickly flip each piece. You can tell when it’s ready to flip when the part you cut out is golden brown.
Cook for another 5 minutes and plate them up. Ladle the hot sauce over, sprinkle with the reserved cheese and garnish with the minced chives.
This recipe as is will produce an egg with a slightly runny yolk. If you like your yolk cooked a little more then break the yolk up with the tip of a knife when you drop it in the bread. If you’re not a yolk person at all then scramble the egg completely before you pour it in.
I know people who hate eggs cooked any way. Try substituting some cooked spinach or a mixture of cooked vegetables with sun dried tomatoes for the eggs.
Authentic Gruyere can be hard to find and very expensive. If you have to substitute go for a drier cheese. A high moisture cheese won’t brown as well and won’t give you that nice cheesy chewiness you look for in a dish like this.