Croque Madame sandwiches are comforting, decadent, over the top brunch sandwiches with a creamy gruyere mornay sauce and sunny side up eggs!
Honey, is the only thing you can make a grilled cheese sandwich and you want to impress your significant other who keeps teasing you that all you can make is a grilled cheese sandwich?
Well, you’re in luck, because a Croque Madame is the fanciest and probably the most delicious grilled cheese sandwich you’ll ever eat.
What’s a croque madame/monsieur and what’s in it?
It’s like a ham and cheese sandwich and a grilled cheese sandwich got married, won the lottery, took a trip to Paris, had a baby, and that baby grew up really, really bougie in the best way possible and bought a hat.
The myth is, some construction workers in France had placed their ham and cheese lunches on a radiator and forgot about them until lunchtime and all the cheese had melted all over the sandwich and a legend was born. And it was delicious. Don’t leave anything on radiators, though. I’m pretty sure that’s dangerous.
Croque monsieurs and croque madame sandwiches (literally means “Mister and Missus Crunch”. Isn’t that cute?) are ham and cheese sandwiches that start with slices of rich brioche. Which is how you know that you are about to start with the most extra and amazing sandwich of your life.
When you’re making your sandwiches, it’s a surprisingly simple and easy ingredient list.
- Brioche Bread. It’s an enriched bread, full of butter and eggs. It’s so luxurious and I love using it in everything from these sandwiches to french toast to patty melts.
- Gruyere cheese. This is a creamy, buttery cheese that is classic with croque madames and monsieur. It melts really well, which is great for the cheese sauce we’re making in this recipe.
- Slices of ham. And don’t be stingy; pile on the good stuff.
- Dijon mustard. Another classic ingredient that gives such great flavor!
- Butter and Eggs for those perfectly fried eggs. These aren’t hard fried, they are beautifully perfect with set whites and runny yolks. This is what makes the croque madame different from the croque monsieur.
Next, we need that amazing cheese sauce we were talking about:
Butter and flour to make a roux, or the thickening base for the sauce.
Kosher salt, freshly cracked pepper, and a tiny little pinch of nutmeg. Use fresh nutmeg, it’s flavor is seriously way better than pre-ground!
A ton of freshly grated gruyere cheese. Can’t have cheese sauce without cheese! You can substitute gruyere for another yummy cheese that melts well, like Emmental.
How to make a Croque Madame
Take a slice of bread, smear on that good Dijon mustard, layer on slices of ham, and pour on a good, good layer of mornay sauce and top with the other brioche slice. These babies are crisped up in a pan, a cast iron skillet preferably as cast iron gives off even heat but a nonstick skillet is perfectly okay, then top each sandwich in a hedonistic amount of that creamy gruyere cheese sauce.
As I said in my patty melt recipe, going crust to crust is a must! Seriously, just smooth all the sauce over the brioche. I love adding more of that shredded Gruyere over the ham and on top of the sauce, too. I used smoked gruyere cheese because I love the flavor. If you can find some smoked gruyere, snatch it up! Your mind will be blown!
Then the sandwiches are placed under the broiler on a baking sheet while some sunny side up eggs are sizzling on the stove top to give our just-browned and bubbly cheese sauce its little hat (because the egg looks like a lady’s little hat, they call a croque monsieur with fried eggs croque madame) and it’s absolutely delicious.
Worried about this mornay sauce? I’ll break it down for you, it’s really simple, I promise.
What is a mornay sauce?
A mornay is simply a cheesy bechamel sauce, or that white sauce made with butter, flour, and milk often used in mac and cheese.
In a small saucepan, melt a tablespoon butter over medium heat, add flour and cook it out, then whisk in milk and bring to a boil to make the sauce thicken until nappe, or is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and stays separated when you run a finger down the back of the spoon.
Take off the heat and add all that cheese, whisking to make sure the cheese melts down into a perfect mornay sauce. Season with salt and pepper, but just a bit since cheese is pretty salty.
Take the bechamel off the heat, and add your freshly shredded gruyere cheese, whisking the cheese in well. If it starts getting a little too thick, add a little milk to help loosen it up. You’ll be left with a creamy, cheesy, mornay sauce.
Take those babies onto a baking sheet, pour the rest of that creamy sauce on top of them. Be generous! Then top with a beautiful sunny side up egg.
Croque madame sammies are really rich, so while they are a once in a while brunch dish, they are ones that wow the crowd every. single. time.
If you’re looking to optimize your standard ham and cheese or eat the best grilled cheese sandwich, make a croque madame sandwich.
Look at these amazing brunch recipes for more ideas!
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- Deli-sliced ham, as much as you'd like
- 1/2 cup (58 g) gruyere cheese, freshly grated
- 1 tbsp (15 g) Dijon mustard
- 4 thick slices brioche bread, toasted
- 1 tbsp (15 g) butter
- 2 large eggs
- 4 tbsp (57 g) butter
- 1/4 cup (32 g) flour
- 1 1/4 cup (300 ml) milk
- tiny pinch of nutmeg
- kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup (58 g) gruyere cheese, freshly grated
- In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and add flour. Whisk constantly for about a minute. After about 2 minutes or when the mixture becomes bubbly, slowly add in milk.
- Keep whisking until nappe *see notes*. Season with salt, pepper, and freshly ground nutmeg. Take off the heat, then add 1/2 cup of gruyere cheese, whisking until the cheese is fully melted and the sauce is thick and creamy. If the sauce gets a little too thick, add a splash or two of milk and whisk to thin to the correct consistency. Set aside.
- Preheat broiler on low.
- To grill, spread butter onto one side of each slice of brioche, then layer on the ham and mornay sauce and sandwich between the bread slices. Brown sandwich on each side for 2-3 minutes until golden brown.
- OR On a baking sheet, layer two of the toasted brioche bread with your preferred amount of ham. Add a hearty dollop or two of the mornay sauce on top of the ham, then sprinkle a little gruyere.
- Smear the Dijon mustard onto the other two bread slices and top the sandwiches, then generously cover the sandwiches with more mornay sauce and all the gruyere, if you have any left.
- Place the baking sheet with sandwiches under the broiler. Leave to cook for about 3 minutes or until the bechamel sauce is browned. Keep a close eye on it, DO NOT LET IT BURN.
- While the sandwiches are cooking, melt butter in a non-stick pan. Crack two eggs into two separate small bowls and add them into the pan one by one. Cook for 3 minutes with a lid. Whites should be just set completely and the yolks should be runny, bonus points for no brown edges. Season with salt and pepper.
- Carefully take the sandwiches out of the broiler and plate, topping each sandwich with a fried egg. Serve immediately.
Nappe means that the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and stay separate when you run your finger down the sauce on the spoon.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 2 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 762 Total Fat: 77g Saturated Fat: 44g Trans Fat: 2g Unsaturated Fat: 27g Cholesterol: 321mg Sodium: 1100mg Carbohydrates: 78g Fiber: 3g Sugar: 11g Protein: 49g
Eden Westbrook is the recipe developer, writer, and photographer behind Sweet Tea and Thyme. A classically trained chef, Eden has inspired home cooks into the kitchen with cultural comfort foods, easy family-friendly eats and sweets, and glorious spreads for date night and entertaining since 2015.