If you go to France and never learn a word of the language, at the very least you should come home knowing the names of the two most popular cafe sandwiches: Croque Monsieur and Croque Madame.
These are both toasted sandwiches made with ham and cheese – "croque" roughly translates as "crunch" or "crunchy." The difference between a Croque-Monsieur and a Croque-Madame is that the Madame is served with a fried egg on top. Supposedly the yolk surrounded by the rim of white resembles a woman’s hat!
The sandwich is traditionally topped with a béchamel sauce and then the fried egg, but I've stopped making them with béchamel. It's fussy to make a béchamel (a roux-based cheese sauce) for an otherwise very simple sandwich, and I've found that an extra slice of cheese works just as well.
Gruyere is the classic cheese for this sandwich; buy it if you can find it. If not, go for another cheese that will melt easily, like Swiss, Emmental, Comté, or Jarlsberg. Also, pick a flavorful ham, like Black Forest.
I prefer thickly sliced white sandwich bread, which holds up well in the skillet. I like to spread the inside of the sandwiches with Dijon mustard and the outsides with mayonnaise. The mayo gives the sandwich an extra-rich flavor and added crispiness after frying.
Top with a sunny-side up egg and lunch is ready! This sandwich is best eaten with a fork.
Tips for Success
- Spread the outside of the sandwich with mayo for extra flavor and crispiness.
- A bacon press, grill press, or panini press (all names for the same thing) is handy here if you have one. It helps the sandwich cook evenly and develop a nice crust on the outside. If you don't have one, just press the sandwich a few times with the flat of your spatula during cooking.
- Serve this sandwich hot and eat it with a fork! It's best with a runny egg on top, which creates a sauce for each bite.
Easy Croque-Madame (Ham and Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Fried Egg)
- 2 slices sandwich bread, any favorite variety
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 2 thin slices Gruyere, or other firm, melting cheese (like Comté, Emmental, Jarlsberg), or enough cheese to cover the bread slices
- 2 thin slices deli ham, like Black Forest
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 1/2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large egg
- Pinch teaspoon salt
- Pinch teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme or parsley
Make the sandwich:
Spread both slices of bread with mayonnaise. Flip them over and spread the other side with mustard. Onto one slice of bread, layer a slice of cheese, the ham, and the other slice of cheese. Top with the other slice of bread, mustard-side down. (The mayonnaise sides should face out.)
Fry the sandwiches:
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat, then add the sandwich. If you have a bacon press, grill press, or panini press, set it on top to weight the sandwich down (otherwise, just press a few times with the flat of your spatula during cooking). Cook for 3 minutes, or until the bottom slice of bread is golden.
Carefully flip the sandwich in the skillet. Set the bacon press back on top (or press with the flat of your spatula), and cook another 3 minutes or until the underside is golden. Transfer to a plate.
Fry the egg sunny-side up:
Wipe out the skillet. Heat the olive oil in the skillet over medium heat until the oil shimmers and flows easily. Add the egg and cook for 1 minute exactly. Cover the skillet and cook for another 30 to 60 seconds, or until all the whites are set. (A runny yolk is preferred for this sandwich, however cook the egg for longer if you prefer a more hard-cooked yolk.)
Slide the egg onto the top of the sandwich. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, along with thyme or parsley. Serve immediately.