Croque-Madame with Mornay Sauce
Mmmmmm … samiches. SoupAddict loves da samiches. They’re the perfect accompaniment to soup, you see. And any friend of soup’s is a friend of SoupAddict’s.
Leave it to the French to take something as simple as a ham and cheese sandwich and jazz it up to decadent heights. Croque-Madam (“croke mah-dahm”), although unusually un-French sounding, tops the familiar ham ‘n cheese with more cheese and a fried egg. Serve it with soup. Serve it for brunch. But serve it you must.
Croque-Madame with Mornay Sauce
|Adapted from Food Network|
|1/2||cup||Spanish onion, diced|
|Freshly grated nutmeg|
|Freshly ground white pepper|
|1/3||cup||Comte or Emmentaler cheese, grated|
|Sandwiches (makes 4)|
|8||slices||Brioche, pain de mie or other hearty bread, about 1/2″ thick|
|8||ounces||thinly sliced ham, preferably Black Forest|
|6||ounces||Swiss cheese, grated (gruyere also tastes great)|
|Freshly ground pepper, for garnish|
|parsley, chopped, for garnish (optional)|
Mornay Sauce: Melt the butter in a medium heavy 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 about 3 minutes, stirring constantly so that the roux doesn’t burn or color.
Whisking constantly, add the milk and cream and whisk until fully incorporated. Bring to a simmer, whisking, then add the bay leaf, peppercorns, and cloves. Reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook, whisking occasionally, reaching into the corners of the pan, for about 30 minutes. (If the sauce does begin to scorch, pour it into a clean pan—don’t scrape the bottom of the pan—and continue.)
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, add the cheese, and whisk to melt. Use immediately, or place in a storage container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to keep a skin from forming, and refrigerate for up to a week. If the sauce is too thick after refrigeration, it can be thinned with a little heavy cream.
Assemble the sandwiches: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F
Lay out all the bread slices. Divide the ham among them. Pile the cheese on the ham. Press cheese down so bits don’t tumble off the sandwich.
Heat 2 large ovenproof nonstick pans, a griddle or panini grill over medium heat (375 degrees). (If you have only 1 large pan, make 2 sandwiches and keep them warm in the oven while you make the second batch.) Pan preparation: Add 1 tablespoon of the butter to each pan. When it has melted, add half the bread, cheese-side up, to each pan and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the bottoms are golden brown. Transfer the pans to the oven for 2 to 3 minutes to melt the cheese. Panini preparation: spoon 1/4 cup each of the mornay sauce over 4 of the sandwich halves, then pair each with the unsauced halves to form a sandwich. Place in the panini grill and close the lid, grilling for the recommended time in the manufacturer’s directions (usually 3-5 minutes — it goes fast!).
Meanwhile, melt the remaining 1 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.
Continuing pan preparation: When the cheese is melted, remove the sandwiches from the oven. Spoon 1/4 cup each of the mornay sauce 4 of the sandwich halves. Place 2 slices together to make each sandwich and put each sandwich on a serving plate.
Place an egg on top of each sandwich. Grind black pepper over each egg and garnish the eggs with a diagonal sprinkling of chopped parsley.
Alternative use for the mornay sauce: the Frenchier way to use the sauce is to pour it over the assembled sandwich, circling the yolk so that it remains exposed. Then add parsley. Be warned: while lovely, this presentation calls for a fork and knife! SoupAddict does not have an ounce of French blood in her veins, but any recipe calling for more cheese sauce than the bread can hold is right up SoupAddict’s alley.