Monday, July 5, 2010

Croque-Monsieur or Croque Madame or Croque Provencal or a really fancy Ham and Cheese for "The Project"

I am begging you not to tell anyone (especially Jackie)...

I have a secret.  I love very easy recipes that have the illusion of being complicated, and look spectacular (dare I say Restaurant Quality Presentation).  You can make a simple version of this sandwich in 5 minutes (it's just a ham and cheese sandwich).  You can make a ham and cheese and egg sandwich with just a tiny bit of effort, maybe an extra 5 minutes.  But this spectacular presentation takes less than 15 minutes.

You can even fight the French and use scrambled eggs (Jackie's favorite) in place of a fried egg.  Don't worry about fighting the French, they will surrender.

But, in order to make that joke, I digress from the sandwich...

But I have one more digression... This recipe is part of  "the Project".  "the Project" is something I will be working on for the next several weeks.  It is part "Best of" series, like "Garlic Chipotle Parmesan Hamburger Buns for "the Project"; recipes that I have gotten right.  But it is also a measurement of my evolution as a cook. This recipe and presentation is a perfect example of what I want to include in "the Project"... Why make something simple, when with just a tiny bit of extra effort, you can make a masterpiece.

And here is what I am talking about.  Back on April 20th, my post for the day was..."A bad Croque Madame or a good Sandwich".  Believe it or not, the sandwich to the right is the same sandwich shown above.  The one on the right took less than 10 minutes.  The one above took less than 15 minutes.

I'll take the one above.

Here's what I did...

I started with a fresh loaf of "Eng Bread - A Sweet loaf of French Bread for "the Project".  You remember the post from yesterday.  Just a simple French bread, uses a short rise time, but has a little extra sugar in the dough.

Cut the slices thick if you are going to make an open face sandwich (like shown).  Or, cut a little thinner if you are going to make a more traditional sandwich (like the one shown in the groovy Marcia Brady tribute blue/green plate above.

And now we start getting a bit fancy...

French Toast!

First, "Eng Bread" makes terrific French Toast.  The bread just soaks up the egg and cream mixture (heavy cream when possible to make French toast, whole milk in a pinch) far better than a slice of processed bread.  The classic version of the sandwich has an egg served on the top.  that is what separates a Croque-Monsieur from a Croque Madame.  The theory is that the name change is because the fried egg on top looks like a ladies hat.  Since, I was planning on making a Croque Madame anyway, adding a bit of egg flavor and texture and color to the sandwich makes sense to me.

And while the toast is toasting, take just a second to "pretty up" the ham.  No need to just toss a couple of slices on top of the bread, take slices of thin sliced ham and roll them up.  Set aside till the French toast is done, and then top the bread...

And now the cheese...

Pick a good melting cheese.

For this day, I made my Croque Madame with a Swiss cheese.  Cheddar, mozzarella, or the traditional emmental or gruyere which is the "classic" ingredients of the sandwich.

And you have seen this herb mixture before.  My version of "It's not your Grandmother's HERBES de PROVENCE" gets sprinkled over the cheese.  Adds an extra taste, as well as an extra little something to the look.  I keep a baggie of "It's not your Grandmother's HERBES de PROVENCE" handy for just such an occasion.  But a sprinkle of just about any Mediterranean herb will do just fine.  A little Rosemary or Thyme.  Some Dill or even "just" Garlic.

Pop this under the broiler for 5-10 minutes.  Keep an eye on it, as there is a fine line between melted and burned.

But, while the cheese is melting, either fry up an egg or scramble some for your wife...

The sandwich served without the egg is a Croque-Monsieur.  The sandwich served with an egg is a Croque Madame.  When you add tomatoes, either on the side as a garnish, or included in the sandwich is a Croque Provencal.

But really, It's just a simple Ham and Cheese Sandwich.

Croque-Monsieur or Croque Madame or Croque Provencal
Serves 2

For the French Toast-
2 thick slices French bread
2 Eggs
1/4 cup Heavy Cream (whole milk can be substituted)

Toppings for the sandwich
10 slices thin sliced Ham
2 ounces Swiss Cheese (or any good melting cheese_
2 pinches "It's not your Grandmother's HERBES de PROVENCE" (Dill or Rosemary would also work fine)
Fried Egg, or a Scrambled Egg with fresh cracked Pepeer

Garnish with a sliced Roma Tomato

  1. In a bowl, whisk two eggs and the heavy cream, soak both sides of the French bread.
  2. Fry both sides in a non stick pan until the bread has a "toasted" appearance.
  3. Top with ham (decoratively rolled if you like).
  4. Top with cheese slices.
  5. Top with Herbs
  6. Pop under the broiler for a few minutes, until the cheese is melted
  7. Top with a fried egg or scrambled egg, crack a pinch of pepper on the egg
  8. Serve with tomato garnish

One more photo... While I was happy to make Jackie her favorite scrambled eggs, if you make a sunny side up egg, you get this extra little texture and taste...

Funny thing is, I love this part... Jackie hates it.  But everyone can get the egg topping of their choice.  The scrambled eggs looked terrific!



  1. I think sometimes people get really caught up in trying to make seriously complicated food, when really a good ham, cheese, and egg sandwich will often do the trick. I'm glad we see eye to eye on this.

  2. Lovely presentation and since I'm just waking up, I would love a Croque Provencal!

  3. I want that egg sandwich now! Beautiful job Dave and great photos.

  4. Yep, sometimes simple is best - those look amazing Dave! Although I'll take mine scrambled - no runny eggs for me!

  5. Croque Madame is one of my top 3 favorite sandwiches, along with the KY Hot Brown and the monte cristo.

    Never thought about the egg looking like a hat. When Alexis asked me, I said maybe it's a madame because it has the eggs:)

  6. You just keep making this sandwich better and better.