Sunday Brunch & The Croque Madame
While I'm still combing through hundreds of photos from my recent trip to Rome and Paris, I decided to host a Parisian-style, Sunday brunch. And what's a Parisian brunch without a Croque Madame?
A CM (Croque Madame), is a variation on a Croque Monsieur, that originated in French cafés and bars around 1910. Some might say that a Croque Monsieur is just a fancy, toasted ham & cheese sandwich, but oh, how they are wrong! It's more than just ham (and in the case of this post, fresh market ham + prosciutto), and cheese. What takes it to the next level is the Béchamel sauce. Béchamel sauce is made from butter, flour, milk, a little nutmeg and dijon mustard (you'll find all the yummy details below). Add a fried egg on top and you've got a Croque Madame! The egg was thought to represent an old-fashioned woman's hat (love those Parisians!).
I had my first CM at my favorite little brunch place in NYC, Buvette. Chef Jody Williams just opened her second location in Paris, and I was lucky enough to get to visit on my trip, just a few weeks ago. It was nothing short of amazing!
I was thrilled that Jody included her CM recipe in her new cookbook; Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food. And now, having tried a few CMs across Paris, I've made a few of my own tweaks to the recipe. And isn't that what cooking is all about?!
I invited 3 close friends over and the CMs did not disappoint. Of course it didn't hurt that I also won them over with sweets and treats aka biscotti, lemon pound cake, croissants, mimosas and French bread...it's a Parisian brunch after all!
For our mimosas, we used equal parts champagne to orange juice. Most people use a dryer champagne but I prefer Martini and Rossi Asti. Sweet and so good!
To add interest and a little character to my brunch spread, I used vintage-style soda bottles (these are from Crate & Barrel and are only $7 each!), to serve water and OJ in. I was also able to get more on the table by using a couple of cakes stands from Pottery Barn. I got the little cutting board at the Silver Oak winery in Napa Valley (seems a little random, I know!), but you can find a similar one at Williams-Sonoma, and I LOVE these from ABC Carpet & Home. Additionally, you can find all kinds of cutting boards in various shapes and sizes on Etsy!
The Croque Madame
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- Coarse sea salt
- 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
- 8 slices of sourdough bread
- 8 slices of really good, cooked ham (from Fresh Market or Whole Foods)
- 4 slices of prosciutto ham
- 1 cup of coarsely-grated Gruyère cheese
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese for garnish
- 1 teaspoon of herbs de Provence
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
For the béchamel sauce, combine the butter, flour, and nutmeg in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until barely browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Gradually stir in your milk and cook, stirring constantly. The mixture will start to thicken and begin to pull away, resembling pudding. This is a good time to give the sauce a nice, big smell. I love the subtle hint of nutmeg! Your béchamel sauce should stick to your spoon and have some elasticity. Remove from heat and season with salt. Give it a taste and if it suits your fancy, you're good to go OR you can add a little more salt! Combine the sauce with the dijon mustard and spread evenly on ONE side of EACH slice of bread, corner to corner.
Now we're ready for the "meat and potatoes," so to speak! Place one slice of ham directly on top of the béchamel, on 4 of your sourdough slices. Sprinkle the Gruyère cheese on top of the ham. Place the remaining 4 bechamel-coated slices of bread on top of the Gruyère, béchamel side up. Place the 4 sandwiches onto a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle each sandwich with a pinch of herbes de Provence and the remaining Gruyère. Place in the oven and bake until the cheese is totally melted, about 10-11 minutes. To get a nice golden-brown sandwich, I turned on my broiler for the last minute or so.
To top of the Croque Madames with an "old-fashioned hat," place a fried egg on top of each sandwich. Salt and pepper your egg, then place a slice of prosciutto ham on top of each. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, put your beret on and let yourself be transported to a Paris cafe!
Adapted from Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food