Once upon a time in Oregon....at the Red Hills Inn to be exact (actually just remembered that it's the Inn at Red Hills), I had a breakfast treat called Croque Madame. I'd never heard of it before, but it was truly the best thing I ever ate. I have been researching and dreaming about it ever since.
One of the things I learned, was that there are actually two versions...Croque Monsieur and Croque Madame. They are both a glorious French version of a grilled ham and cheese. The Madame version has a beautifully fried egg on top.
Last week one night, while watching The Food Network's "The Best Thing I Ever Ate: for Brunch", chef Alex Guarnaschelli presented her favorite brunch...Croque Monsieur from the Bar Bouloud in NY. The chef did such a great job describing how they make the sandwich, that it kind of inspired me to finally give it a try.
I started by making a simple béchamel sauce. This recipe makes two sandwiches. Here's what I did:
1 TBL butter
1 TBL flour
1/2 cup lukewarm milk
I melted the butter in a small saucepan. Added the flour and stir to combine. Continued to stir on heat for about 1 minute to cook the flour (and get rid of the floury taste). Add the milk and combine and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Continue stirring on low heat until sauce thickens. Remove from heat and let cool a little.
Remove the crust from 4 slices of bread. Put two slices of bread on a cookie sheet and spread with the béchamel sauce. Layer with 3 slices of thinly sliced ham (I used polish ham...you can pick your favorite ham). Then layer with about 1/4 cup of shredded Gruyere cheese. Cover each sandwich with the second piece of bread. Again spread with the béchamel sauce and more of the Gruyere cheese.
Here's what they look like:
Now the restaurant in NY, makes these a day head, presses them down and refrigerates over night. I, of course, wasn't thinking about breakfast on Saturday night, so I just made them...pressed them a bit, and then cooked them.
I baked them at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Then I moved them up under the broiler (Low) until lightly browned.
I have to say....it was delicious and I can't wait until next week-end, when I can add an egg and make Croque Madame.