Although the Accidental Locavore never has white bread in the house, for this recipe from Rachel Khoo’s great book The Little Paris Kitchen, I snuck out and bought a loaf. As with anything this simple, the better your ingredients, the better tasting the results. This is her version of a croque madame, which is traditionally a croque monsieur with a fried egg on top. The sauce will serve 6, it’s up to you to make as many “muffins” as you’d like. It should take you less than an hour from start to finish.
For the mornay sauce:
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon flour
- ¾ cup milk, warmed (you want it lukewarm)
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated if possible)
- ¼ cup grated Gruyère cheese (plus a little more for sprinkling on top)
- Salt and pepper (purists would use white pepper here)
For the muffins:
- 6 large slices white bread, crusts removed (I’ve been using Pepperidge Farms Farmhouse White, which works well)
- 3 tablespoons butter, melted
- 2 ½ ounces ham, thinly sliced or cut into strips
- 6 eggs
To make the sauce, melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk hard until you have a smooth paste. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 2 minutes. Gradually add the warm milk, whisking constantly. Put the pan back on the heat, add the mustard and nutmeg and simmer gently for 10 minutes, whisking frequently. The sauce should thicken and be the consistency of thick tomato sauce. Remove from the heat, stir in the cheese and add the salt and pepper. Taste for seasonings and set aside.
To make the muffins, preheat the oven to 350°. Flatten the bread with a rolling pin (or a wine bottle) to about ¼”. Brush both sides with the melted butter and place in a muffin pan. Press into place. Then, add an equal amount of ham to each and top with an egg. Add 2 tablespoons of sauce to each and sprinkle with the rest of the Gruyère. Bake for 15-20 minutes depending on how runny you like your eggs. Serve and enjoy!
My verdict: I’ve made these twice for brunch, they’re pretty easy and taste great. Since I currently don’t own a muffin pan, I’ve been cooking them in ceramic ramekins on a cookie sheet. The advantage is that you can have more stuff in each one and use bigger eggs, the disadvantage is the cooking time ends up being close to 30 minutes. We tried using brioche tins, but they were a mess and impossible to clean. The last time I made them, I had great Serrano ham, fresh eggs from my friend Bill and aged Gruyère from Murray’s…pretty spectacular! If you wanted to do them for a bigger meal, a simple salad would go nicely.
Update: Bought a muffin pan and it made a huge difference! Only one thing to think about, you’ll need smallish eggs when you use the muffin tin. Also, having the bechamel sauce made ahead of time makes this done in a half an hour. Added bonus, run the crusts of the bread through the food processor to make fresh bread crumbs!