The recipe for croque madame is on page 101, as if to subtlety say "If you can't make this you're an idiot." Not to spoil the outcome before we even get started, but I am no idiot.
The ingredients here are about what you would expect from a grilled ham and cheese sandwich with eggs and cheese sauce:
Every single ingredient shows up in the name of the dish. That's a Cooking Bouchon first, for sure. Oh wait, we threw some butter in, because no recipe in the entire book leaves out the butter. Almost a Cooking Bouchon first. Just for the image-impaired, we have brioche*, butter, eggs, ham, Swiss cheese, and mornay sauce.
*I actually couldn't find brioche, so I had to settle for challah bread. It was still good, but I wish I had been able to try it with brioche. I had considered making some on my own using the recipe in the book and writing about it, but there is absolutely no way I could have done a better job than this.
Ok, time to get cooking. First step, preheat the oven to 375. I'm 1-1 at this point. Next up, lay four slices of bread out. 2-2. Divide the ham, and then the cheese among all four slices of bread, being careful not to let it extend over the edge of the bread.
3-3 and 4-4. This is a little different than I had ever made grilled ham and cheese before, but those were the days when I made peasant grilled ham and cheese. This was Croque Madame after all! Sorry, continuing...In those, lesser, days I would have put all of the meet and cheese on one slice of bread, then topped it with the other slice. The Bouchon way turned out at least as well, although it took a touch longer than my old way.
Before I started all of the sandwich grilling, I reheated the mornay sauce I had made the previous day. Then I melted a tablespoon of butter on a nonstick skillet, and added all four slices of bread to it.
This is the first time in this whole endeavor that I actually laughed at the recipe. Keller and the gang found it necessary to tell us that the bread should be added 'cheese side up'. Whew, good thing that's taken care of. All those years I could never understand why the bread was would never turn golden brown, but come to find out it's because I had the cheese side down. Damn.
I cooked them on the skillet until they were golden brown and then everything went into the oven for a few minutes to melt the cheese. I was worried the bread would continue to cook and eventually burn, but it didn't.
Meanwhile, I had started cooking a couple of eggs in another skillet. In another first for me, I never flipped the eggs, only allowing the bottoms of the whites to set before also putting them in the oven to allow the tops to set. In another inspirational note, the recipe reads "We cook the eggs in 4 inch individual skillets". Well, sorry guys, I don't have a bunch of teeny-weeny individual skillets laying around so these eggs are going to be ugly. Deal with it.
Anyway, everything came out of the oven exactly as planned. The cheese was melted and the top of the eggs had set. I placed two of the slices of bread together, thus creating a sandwich. Then I did it again because there were two of us eating. Each sandwich was topped with an egg, and then I spooned the mornay sauce around the whites of the egg. Done!
Let me tell you, this was good. And easy. Good and easy. It even looks really good. It was like the best grilled ham and cheese you've ever eaten topped with a very good egg and some cream and more cheese. It doesn't get much better. It's also a very rich, so a single sandwich is about all you need if you have a side dish of some sort. I whipped the whole thing up in half and hour too, so it qualifies to be the star of a Rachel Ray episode. Double bonus! I think I'm going to go make it again right now.
6 years ago