Croque Madame

Makes 2 Sandwiches
This is a freakishly good crunchy hot ham and cheese sandwich taken over the top by a creamy cheese-laced béchamel sauce and a fried egg with a runny yolk on top. Hands down, it’s my preferred, salivating-when-I-see-it-on-the-menu brunch choice. It’s so not low-fat, it’s a treat to indulge in once in a while. Omit the eggs and you have a Croque Monsieur.


  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • 4 slices white bread
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 3 ounces best-quality deli ham, thinly sliced
  • 2 large eggs
  • Ground pepper to taste


  1. Preheat the broiler with the rack in the top position. In small saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter over high heat. Whisk in flour and cook until lightly golden. Add milk and salt and whisk constantly until mixture thickens, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir into the sauce the nutmeg and half the cheese.
  2. Lay the slices of bread on a baking sheet. Divide the Dijon between 2 slices and top with ham. Divide half of the bechamel between the remaining 2 bread slices and top with remaining cheese. Close the sandwiches.
  3. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add sandwiches and cook both sides until bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted, about 3-4 minutes.
  4. Return sandwiches to the baking sheet, top with remaining bechamel, and place under the broiler until bubbly, about 2 minutes. Meanwhile, melt remaining butter in the same skillet over high heat. Fry eggs, sunny side up, for about 2 minutes. Top sandwiches with fried egg, season with black pepper, and serve immediately.
cook's note
Béchamel sauce, or creamy white sauce, is a French “mother sauce” (sounds fancier than it is) from which spring many variations and applications. Mastering how to make it lets you create many different dishes. Even when there’s “nothing in the house to eat,” you can usually rustle up some flour, butter, and milk along with something to fold in—like tuna, corned beef, or canned salmon—in order to fashion a casserole-type meal. Vary the flavoring by adding mustard or horseradish to the milk. Fold in a cup of shredded cheese and you have a Mornay sauce, which can be folded together with a pound of macaroni elbows for a quick mac ’n’ cheese (see page 194) or layered into a lasagna (see page 192).

NUTSHELL RECIPE: béchamel sauce
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a saucepan over high heat. If desired, add a minced shallot. Whisk in 1 tablespoon flour and a pinch of salt, and cook, stirring, until golden, about 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in 1 cup milk, stirring constantly, until boiling again, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 3 more minutes. Makes 1¼ cups sauce.
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