Food

Classic Croque-Madame

Croque-Monsieur With Poached Eggs

Today, as part of our month of egg recipes, we’re featuring a croque-madame — a warm ham and cheese sandwich with a poached egg on top. (Apparently, it’s named that because the egg resembles a lady’s wide-brimmed hat.) The final dish is crispy, cheesy and oozing with deliciousness. Alexandra Stafford of Alexandra’s Kitchen shares how to nail this classic recipe at home…

Croque Madame
by Alexandra Stafford of Alexandra’s Kitchen

I fell in love with the croque-monsieur at San Francisco’s famous Tartine Bakery, which to no surprise serves the ultimate version: a thick slice of béchamel sauce-slicked toast topped with ham, tomato and Gruyère — all broiled to blistered and bubbling perfection.

For years, I hesitated to attempt making it at home. But it turns out, a homemade croque-monsier can be the real thing. There’s not much to it — if you can make béchamel (and you can!), you can make a croque-monsieur. And once you learn the method, you can adapt it in countless ways: use any good melting cheese, use bacon or pancetta in place of the ham, use whatever vegetables you have on hand: asparagus, mushrooms, leeks, kale, etc. Top it all with an egg, and it becomes a croque-madame.

A croque-monsieur is a particularly handy recipe to turn to when the fridge is looking bare and getting to the store feels impossible. Serve it with a simple salad — or, as they do at Tartine, with a single carrot — and call brunch (or dinner) done.

Croque-Monsieur With Poached Eggs

Croque-Monsieur With Poached Eggs

You’ll need:

1 tbsp butter
1/3 medium onion (about 2 to 4 tbsp finely chopped)
Kosher salt
1 tbsp flour
1 cup whole milk
1 bay leaf
Good bread, cut into thick slices
3 to 4 slices good ham (figure 1 to 2 per sandwich)
Grated Gruyère, Comté or Swiss cheese
Fresh thyme leaves
2 eggs (count on 1 egg per sandwich)
Splash of white vinegar

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook until the onion is soft but has not begun to color, about 5 to 7 minutes. Turn the heat to very low, add the flour and stir to combine it with the onion and butter. Continue to cook over low heat until the flour is absorbed, stirring constantly so that it doesn’t brown, about 2 minutes. Slowly stir in the milk. Drop in the bay leaf.

Over medium to medium-high heat, bring the mixture to a boil. Then reduce the heat to its lowest setting and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the sauce from burning on the bottom of the pan. Taste and cook longer if the taste of raw flour is still detectable. The mixture should be thick, but if it’s too thick and becoming difficult to stir, you’ll need to whisk in a little more milk. Remove the bay leaf and discard.

Preheat the broiler. Place the slices of bread on a rack on a sheet pan (or a broiling pan) and broil them about a minute on each side. Remove pan from the oven. Spread about 1 tablespoon of mixture over each slice of bread. Top with 1 to 2 slices of ham. Top with grated cheese to taste. Set aside.

Fill a shallow saucepan with 2 to 3 inches water and bring to a simmer. Crack each egg into a small bowl or ramekin. Sprinkle about a tablespoon of vinegar into the pot of simmering shallow water. Adjust the heat so that the water is barely simmering. (Get the water to a simmer, then turn it down so you don’t see any bubbles.) Use the handle of a wooden spoon to make a whirlpool in the water, then drop one egg into the center of the whirlpool. Repeat with other egg. Adjust the heat to keep the water just below a simmer. Set the timer for 3 minutes.

When the eggs have cooked for 3 minutes, place croque-monsieurs under the broiler and cook until the cheese is bubbling and starting to brown. Remove from the oven. Sprinkle with the fresh thyme.

Meanwhile, using a slotted spoon, lift one egg up from the water and shake it. The yolk should jiggle a little bit, but shouldn’t look too loose. You might have to cook the eggs for a minute longer. Knowing when poached eggs are done is just a matter of practice and preference. Personally, I don’t like the yolk to taste raw, but I still like it runny, which takes 4 to 5 minutes. When the eggs look cooked to your liking, remove them with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.

Top each sandwich with a poached egg. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste.

Croque-Monsieur With Poached Eggs

Thank you so much, Alexandra!

P.S. More recipes, including a grilled cheese with caramelized balsamic onions and a lazy egg-and-cheese sandwich.

(Recipe and photos by Alexandra Stafford. Thanks to Stella Blackmon for helping with this series.)

  1. Kadija says...

    AMAZING!!!! I just made this whole dancing around my kitchen in my underwear listening to Amy Winehouse and drinking wine (too much??)! It’s sooooo good and the experience of making it was so fun! Thank you all for sharing!

  2. Made this for brunch today, easy to follow instructions and tasted fantastic. The only problem is now my husband says he wants it every day! Thanks for sharing

  3. wow, very delicoius.

  4. Patti says...

    Thank you so much for this recipe. The pictures looked so delicious that I made these for dinner tonight having neither made bechamel nor poaching an egg before in my life! My boyfriend insists that these become a regular dish in our house.

  5. This looks so tasty. My fiance LOVES croque madame’s. His go to when we brunch at Paul (www.paul-usa.com/)

    Maybe I’ll surpise him this weekend with one :-)

    — Dara // http://www.peoniesandhoneybees.com

  6. I thought it was a croque madame because the sunny side up egg resembled a breast!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      That is hilarious!!

  7. Anne says...

    The croque-Madame is one of my absolute favorite foods! Best eaten in a French café with a glass of wine. But I think the egg is typically fried, sunny side up. Make it however you like, of course, but I don’t think a poached egg is traditional. Also, I have often had it without the béchamel,
    or very little.

  8. Dustin Hoffman once came to the restaurant I worked at and ordered a Croque Madame. Everyone, including the owner, was so nervous and excited that he was there you could feel the place humming (I mean, he’s SO COOL). I guess the nerves got the my boss, the cook, because right as he was passing me the plate, he somehow jiggled the egg and the yolk broke and poured over the entire sandwich. He weirdly refused to make another dish, so I had to serve Mr. Hoffman a sloppy, broken yolk Croque Madame. He was sweetly gracious all the same.

  9. I am not one for runny yokes, but I know my husband would LOVE this! French cuisine is always his favorite, and this looks just perfect!

    xoxo http://www.touchofcurl.com

  10. Abby says...

    Mouth-watering! The egg makes it a “Madame”; without one it’s a “Monsieur” :-). Or so tradition goes. Important bit: It’s all delicious!!!

  11. I’ve never learned how to poach an egg! I think I better learn because this look soooo delicious!! I love egg and meat sandwiches! =)

  12. Natalie says...

    Love this recipe and love Alexandra!!

    • Thank you :) :) :)

  13. Emily says...

    This looks so good! Alexandra’s Kitchen is one of my favorites, she posts amazing recipes and makes them so easy to make. There is not a single recipe from her site (of the ones that I’ve made) that hasn’t worked out and a few have become my family’s favorites. Highly recommend!

    • Thank you, Emily, you are sweet :)

  14. Rebecca.H says...

    Mmmm, looks fabulous! I will definitely be trying this recipe!!

  15. Summer says...

    I also thought it was madame because of the very literal egg. (Croque Monsieur is the same sandwich minus the egg.)

    Regardless, I LOVE THESE! I can’t wait to try out this recipe!

  16. Laura says...

    These are my favorite!!! I ate them all the time when I was a poor college traveler in France :)

  17. Interesting. I always thought Madame had eggs because females do. I’ve never had a croque madame with bechamel–it’s just a ham and cheese with a sunny-side-up egg on top. Cook the egg, set it aside, brown the sandwich in the same pan, put egg back on top and serve.

    • Elizabeth R says...

      Interesting. I love this sandwich and have eaten in many restaraunts, never without bechamel.