Breakfast, that foundation of our day, when subjected to the rush of our daily routine, can often be a hurried affair. As the holidays set in and we are graced with a bit of leisure, we are left to our devices- A slow cup coffee and a hearty bite as we linger with the morning paper.
The very traditional Croque Madame is a wonderful treat on those lazy days. The warm, oozing cheese and buttery Mornay sauce are particularly welcoming during the cold holiday months. They also make a splendid brunch offering for family visits.
Croque Madame (see definition)
8 (½ in slices brioche, or pain de mie (about 4 in square)
8 oz thinly sliced boiled ham
8 oz (about ½ oz each) Smoked Gruyere cheese (hear pronunciation)
1½ oz unsalted butter
4 large eggs
½ pt mornay sauce, warmed, recipe follows
For the mornay sauce:
1½ oz unsalted butter
2¾ oz diced Spanish onion
1 oz plain flour
¾ pt milk
½ pt heavy whipping cream, or as needed
1 bay leaf
3 black peppercorns
3 whole cloves
Freshly grated nutmeg
Freshly ground white pepper
1¼ oz grated Smoked Gruyere cheese
Croque-madame, sauce mornay (grilled ham and cheese sandwich with a fried egg and mornay sauce)
1) Preheat the oven to 375°F.
2) Lay out the bread slices. Divide the ham among them, making sure it doesn’t extend over the edges of the bread. Place the cheese over the ham. If the cheese is larger than the bread, bend it over to fit.
3) Heat 2 large ovenproof nonstick pans or griddles over medium heat. (If you have only 1 large pan, make 2 sandwiches and keep them warm in the oven while you make the second batch.) Add 1 tablespoon of the butter to each pan. When it has melted, add half the bread, cheese-side up to each pan and cook for 1 to 2 mins, or until the bottoms are golden brown. Transfer the pans to the oven for 2 to 3 mins to melt the cheese.
4) Meanwhile, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter in a large ovenproof skillet and fry the eggs. Cook the eggs until the bottoms are set, then place the skillet in the oven for a minute to set the top of the whites.
5) When the cheese is melted, remove the sandwiches from the oven. Place 2 slices together to make each sandwich and put each sandwich on a serving plate. Place an egg on top of each sandwich. Pour sauce over the white of each egg, leaving the yolk uncovered. Grind black pepper over each egg and garnish the eggs with a diagonal sprinkling of chopped parsley.