A croque madame, the iconic French sandwich holding permanent residence on brasseries and café menus, is already an upgraded ham and cheese sandwich, especially with a layer of broiled creamy béchamel sauce and the crispy fried egg on top.
Our take on the fork-and-knife affair makes it even cheesier and crispier just by adding an extra layer of cheese on the outside of the bread, where it hits the pan and gets all nutty and frico-like. The croque madame just got the ultimate cheese makeover — are you ready?
The Best Cheese for Croque Madame Sandwiches
Nutty Gruyère cheese is our cheese of choice when making croque madames, and it serves two purposes. The first is the delicious glue that holds our sandwich together, which is why I like to make sure cheese is in contact with both bread slices and the ham on the inside of the sandwich. The second is that the extra layer of cheese on the outside of the bread crisps up beautifully in the pan to form a crunchy, cheesy layer of flavor.
Making the French white sauce, called a béchamel, is not something I want to do when the croque madame craving hits, nor do I usually have the time to both cook the sandwich on the stove and broil it. The sandwich is already rich enough, so I skip the béchamel. To mimic some of the creamy flavor it adds to the sandwich, I spread nutmeg-laced mayonnaise on the outside of the bread instead of butter. The substitution is still flavorful, plus I don't usually have the forethought to have softened butter around but always have a jar of mayonnaise in the fridge.
This recipe makes two large sandwiches, which is a pretty rich meal when you take into account that there's also a fried egg on top. For smaller appetites, serve half a sandwich, but fry extra eggs so that each person gets their own crispy egg.
The Egg-cellent Egg
Tired of cooking eggs the same way over and over again? This protein-packed and economical staple can be cooked in countless ways with delicious results. This week we're sharing fun, new ways to serve eggs for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even at snack time. Stash an extra carton of eggs in your basket the next time you're at the store and give these recipes a whirl.
The Ultimate Croque Madame
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated Gruyère cheese (from a 6-ounce piece), divided
4 ounces thinly sliced deli ham
1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
2 large eggs
Freshly ground black pepper
Cut 4 (1/2-inch-thick) slices from the center of the bread loaf (reserve the remaining bread for another use) and place on a work surface. Mix the mayonnaise and nutmeg together in a small bowl. Spread the mayonnaise mixture evenly on the bread slices. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the cheese over the bread slices and press with your fingers to gently adhere to the mayonnaise.
Flip 2 of the bread slices over. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the cheese over these bread slices, then divide the ham evenly over the cheese. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup cheese over the ham, then close each sandwich with a remaining bread slice, making sure it is cheese-side up.
Heat a large nonstick frying pan or cast iron pan over medium heat until hot, about 4 minutes. Using a flat spatula, transfer the sandwiches into the pan. Cover and cook until golden-brown and the cheese inside is melted, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer each sandwich to a plate.
Add the oil to the pan. Add the eggs, season with salt and pepper, and cook until the whites are set, 3 to 4 minutes for runny yolks, longer if firmer yolks are desired. Top each sandwich with a fried egg and serve immediately.
- Storage: We recommend only making this sandwich when you are ready to eat, as it does not keep well.
- Bread substitute: Use sliced brioche for an even richer sandwich or if you cannot find a bread boule.