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Croque-Madame

I failed at making my first Brioche. I think my yeast is old and the dough did not rise as much as it was supposed to. As a result I shaped the dough into buns and decided to use the buns for Croque-Madame. This is classic bistro food – a grilled ham and cheese sandwich, topped with a fried egg and creamy Mornay sauce. The Brioche makes the sandwich extra rich and heavenly. This recipe comes from the Bouchon cookbook (p. 101), makes 4 servings, and can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

For the Sandwich:

  • Eight 1/2- inch-thick slices of Brioche, or other egg bread
  • 8 ounces thinly sliced boiled ham
  • 8 slices (about 1/2 ounce each) Swiss cheese
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup Mornay sauce (see below), warmed
  • Freshly Ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons chopped Italian parsley

For the Mornay sauce (makes two cups):

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup diced (1/2 inch) yellow union
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream, or as needed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 black peppercorns
  • 3 whole cloves
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • Freshly ground white pepper
  • 1/3 cup grated Comte or Emmentaler cheese

To make the Mornay sauce:

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook slowly, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Sprinkle in the flour and cook for three minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk so the roux doesn’t burn or color. Add the milk and cream and whisk constantly until fully incorporated. Bring to a simmer, whisking, then add the bay leaf, peppercorns, and cloves. Reduce the heat to low so you avoid scorching the sauce and bring it to a gentle simmer. Continue to whisk for another 30 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat and season to taste with salt, a grating of nutmeg, and a pinch of white pepper. Strain the sauce to remove the bay leaf, peppercorns, and cloves. Add the cheese and whisk to melt.  Set aside and keep warm.

To make the sandwich:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lay out the bread slices on a baking pan. Divide the ham among them, making sure it doesn’t extend over the edges of the bread. Place the cheese over the ham. Transfer the pan to the oven for 2 to 3 minutes to melt the cheese. Melt a tablespoon of butter in a large ovenproof skillet and fry the eggs. Cook the eggs until the bottoms are set, then place the skillet in the oven for a minute to set the top of the whites. When the cheese is melted, remove the sandwiches from the oven and put each sandwich on a serving plate. Place an egg on top of each sandwich. Pour about 1/4 cup of the Mornay sauce over the white of each egg. Grind black pepper over each egg and garnish the eggs with chopped parsley if desired.

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