The croque monsieur (literally, 'mr crunch') and croque madame ('mrs crunch') are essentially grilled ham and cheese sandwiches but drastically leveled up with a French touch of béchamel sauce and, in the case of the croque madame, a fried egg on top. The croque madame and croque monsieur are pretty much the same hot, creamy, salty, grilled sandwich but what differentiates them is the aforementioned egg.
Found in bistros, cafes, airports, train stations & wherever one night need a quick bite in France, the 'croque sandwiches' are casual, if not slightly daggy, French dishes. But what a croque lacks in sophistication is made up with how satisfying it is to eat, which is probably why it hasn't disappeared off menus after all this time. If done right, of course, which is to say:
- Use fresh bread, baked that morning, coated with salted butter;
- Layer on a creamy homemade béchamel sauce, not once, but twice;
- Stuff with slices of a slightly pungent hard cheese, like gruyère or aged comté;
- Put some ham of good quality in the heart of it all;
- And, when we're talking about the croque madame, don't forget the fried egg, with its bright runny yolk, acting as the cherry on top.
Prep time: 5-10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Croque Monsieur and Croque Madame Recipes
For the béchamel sauce:
- 60g butter
- 60g plain flour, sifted
- 1.5 cups milk
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg, grated or powdered
For the sandwich:
- 4 slices of bread
- 4 slices of ham
- 300g gruyère, grated
- butter for buttering
- To make the croque madame: 4 eggs and some butter for frying
For the béchamel sauce:
- In a small, thick-bottomed pan, melt the butter. Throw in the flour and rapidly whisk it in.
- Little by little, whisk in the milk. The mixture will suddenly look thicker, almost solid, for some moments, but keep whisking and adding milk and it will soon look like a sauce.
- Remove from heat and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
- Set aside. Note that the béchamel sauce will thicken as it rests.
For the croque monsieur:
- Preheat oven to 180C (350F).
- Butter one side of all bread slices.
- Assemble the sandwiches as follows:
- Take a slice of bread, place it buttered side down
- Spread 2 tbsp of bechamel sauce on top
- Add a slice of ham, then sprinkle on a lot of cheese
- Top with the second piece of bread, buttered side up
- Spread 2 tbsp of béchamel over the top, followed by a generous sprinkle of cheese.
- Place sandwiches on a tray and put them in the oven for 5-7 minutes or until all the cheese has melted. For the last 30-60 seconds you might want to change your oven's heat setting to having all the heat come from the top so that the cheese can burn a bit.
- Season with salt and pepper and serve straight away.
For the croque madame:
- Follow steps 1-4 for making the croque monsieur.
- While the sandwiches are in the oven, fry an egg.
- Serve the sandwiches with the egg on top. Season with salt and pepper, as desired.