What Is a Croque Madame?

Thalia Ho

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.

Serves 4.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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Add a piece of ham to each slice of bread.

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Sprinkle half the cheese on top of the ham.

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Top each portion with another slice of bread.

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Add Bechamel

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

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Top With Cheese

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

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Bake

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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