There aren’t many breakfasts as beautiful and satisfying as a Croque Madame, where crispy bread, creamy béchamel, salty ham, sharp cheese and rich egg yolk come together to create a mouthwatering experience. In this version of the Croque Madame, I’ve added another layer of complexity by using savory French toast for the bread – the butter-fried exterior a pleasant textural counterpoint to the lusciously custardy interior. I kept the dish from being overly decadent by making the sandwich open-faced. I don’t think you’ll miss the second piece of bread one bit!
Savory French Toast Croque Madame
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. flour
1/2 cup milk
1 cup grated Gruyère cheese, divided
2 slices Savory French Toast (recipe below)
4 thin slices ham
Butter for frying eggs
Salt and pepper
1. Make the béchamel. In a small saucepan, melt 1 Tbsp. butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk for two minutes, just until the flour is cooked but not starting to brown. Reduce the heat to medium-low and slowly whisk in the milk. Continue whisking and cook until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in 1/3 cup Gruyère.
2. Preheat the broiler. Place the French toast on a baking sheet and layer half the ham on each slice. Divide the béchamel sauce between the two sandwiches and spread over the ham. Sprinkle 1/3 cup Gruyère over each. Place the sandwiches under the broiler until the cheese is melted and just beginning to brown.
3. Meanwhile, fry the eggs. Melt enough butter to coat a medium pan over medium-high heat. Add the eggs and fry until the white is cooked through and the yolk is still runny. Top each sandwich with a fried egg and a small pinch of salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
Savory French Toast
2 Tbsp. milk
1/2 tsp. kosher or sea salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 large slices day-old bread, 1/2-inch thick
Butter for frying
1. In a shallow bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, and pepper. Place each slice of bread in the bowl, a minute on each side, to soak up the batter.
2. Place a large pan over medium-high heat and add enough butter to coat. Once the butter is melted and begins to foam, add the soaked bread and fry until golden-brown on one side, flip, and fry until the second side is golden-brown.
Serve solo with hot sauce or ketchup, or keep warm in a 200-degree oven until ready to assemble a Savory French Toast Croque Madame (recipe above).
Elizabeth’s Wine Pairing Suggestion:
There are few foods more classically brasserie than a Croque Monsieur or Madame. For this very French grilled cheese sandwich, a fruity, medium-bodied, lip-smacking red will do nicely. I love Gamay for exactly this. For dining solo or à deux, Brouilly, Ch. des Tours 2011 is perfect. A 375-mL half-bottle does not require the commitment of a full 750-mL bottle, and comes out to a perfect 2.5 glasses. For a larger party, try Coteaux Bourguignons, Dominique Piron 2011 in a liter size. It suits brasserie dishes with groups of friends who might gather to celebrate the best of casual French fare.