The male counterpart to the Croque Madame is made in the same manner, but instead of a fried egg on top, it gets a warm and creamy Mornay sauce.
For grilling the bread, I prefer to use a home-style panini machine, a two-sided grill that resembles a waffle iron. The heavy metal grills apply pressure and heat to both sides of the bread or sandwich at once. There's no flipping necessary, and you don't need to exert any extra pressure on the sandwiches as they grill. Turn the panini machine to high and allow it to heat up for 5-10 minutes. Transfer the sandwiches to the grill, placing them side by side without overcrowding them. (Most home-style panini grills have room for two sandwiches or two slices of bread.) Close the top grill and cook them for a few minutes, until the bread is lightly browned. This practical and easy-to-use machine is the fastest, most efficient method for making grilled sandwiches.
If you don't own a panini grill, other techniques work fine. You can achieve the same effect with the coffee-shop method, using a heavy-bottomed pan, or better yet, a well-seasoned cast iron skillet with some clarified butter. Place a tablespoon or so of the clarified butter in the skillet and cook the assembled sandwich over medium heat, covered with a lid. WHen the bottom side turns golden brown, flip the sandwich over and move it around so it absorbs some if the butter around the edge of the skillet, adding more butter if necessary.
Total Timeunder 1 hour
OccasionFamily Get-together, game day
Recipe Coursemain course
Dietary Considerationmain course
Taste and Texturebuttery, cheesy, rich, salty
Type of Dishsandwich
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 tablespoons finely chopped yellow onion
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 4 black peppercorns, cracked
- 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ cup (approximately 2 ounces) finely grated Gruyere cheese
- ¼ cup (1 ounce) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 8 slices white or whole-wheat sourdough bread
- 8 ounces Gruyere cheese, sliced into 24–32 1/16-inch-thick slices
- 12 ounces smoked ham, such as Black Forest, sliced into 12–16 1/16-inch-thick slices
- 1 bunch fresh chives, minced
TO MAKE THE MORNAY SAUCE: In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion, salt, and cracked peppercorns, and cook about 10 minutes, until the onion is soft but has not begun to color.
Remove from the heat, and add the flour in 2 batches, whisking to combine it with the onion and butter. Return the pan to the stove, and over low heat, cook a few minutes, until the flour is absorbed, stirring constantly so that it doesn’t brown. Remove from the heat, and slowly whisk in the milk and add the bay leaf. Return the pan to the stove, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent the sauce from burning on the bottom of the pan. Cook for 20–30 minutes, until the taste of raw flour is gone and the mixture is thick, smooth, and silky. If it’s too thick and becoming difficult to stir, you’ll need to whisk in a little more milk.
Using a fine-mesh sieve, strain the sauce. Wash and dry the pan, and pour the sauce back into it. Over low heat, add the 2 cheeses, a little at a time, stirring until they’re completely melted.
Adjust the oven rack to the upper position, and preheat the broiler.
TO ASSEMBLE THE SANDWICHES: Set half of the slices of bread buttered side down, and cover them with the Gruyère cheese slices, folding them back in toward the middle if they extend past the edges of the bread. Place 3 to 4 slices of ham in an even layer over the cheese, and put the top slice of bread over the ham, buttered side up.
Grill the sandwiches (see Note).
Place the sandwiches on a baking sheet and spoon the Mornay sauce over them, leaving a 1-inch border of bread. Heat under the broiler for a minute or two, until the sauce is bubbling. Sprinkle the chives over the sandwiches.
2002 Nancy Silverton