Croque Madame: How to make the perfect French sandwich

Croque Madame is a classic French sandwich, made with a Croque Monsieur egg on top. It is a rich and nutritious dish, usually served for lunch or as a light dinner. The main ingredients of the sandwich are bread, ham, cheese and béchamel sauce, topped with a soft-baked or fried egg.

Croque Madame is traditionally made using white bread, toasted in a fragrant oven with a little butter, with ham and grated cheese in between. Then the béchamel sauce, a smooth buttery cream, is placed on top of the sandwich, sprinkled with cheese before the whole thing is baked until golden brown in the oven. The dish is served with an egg on top, which not only adds extra flavour, but also gives it a distinctive appearance.

This dish is popular in French cafés and restaurants as a staple of bistro cuisine. Croque Madame is often associated with the French way of life, and has become known in many parts of the world as a dish that represents the simple yet irresistible flavours of French gastronomy. Like any traditional dish, there are many variations, but the basic idea – a rich sandwich topped with an egg – remains unchanged.

Of course, Croquea Madame is also on the Onios brunch menu.

Croque Madame

Origin and historical background

The Croque Madame, a feminised version of the French Croque Monsieur sandwich, has become a part of French café culture. With its elegant and rich flavours, it originated in Paris.

Croque Madame vs Croque Monsieur

The basic difference between Croque Madame and Croque Monsieur is the fried egg on top. Croque Monsieur is traditionally a grilled sandwich filled with ham and cheese, first served in Parisian cafés around 1910. The Croque Madame offers the same experience, but with a soft-boiled egg on top, adding an extra layer and dimension of flavour; the spectacular ingredient is reminiscent of the woman’s hat from which it takes its name.

Characteristic of French cuisine

Croque Madame is a perfect example of how French cuisine applies finesse and elegance to simple cooking. Once a simple meal for the working class, the sandwich has become part of the menu in elegant French restaurants and cafés. The cheese used in the Croque Madame is typically emental or gruyère, which melts onto the ham and gives a rich, creamy texture when bitten into.

Raw materials and substitutes

The emphasis in the preparation of Croque Madame is on the selection of quality ingredients that influence the taste and texture of the dish. It is important to choose the right ingredients for authentic flavour, but a variety of substitutes can be used if necessary.

The traditional gruyère cheese

  • Gruyère cheese: traditionally, Croque Madame is made with gruyère cheese, which gives the dish a rich, slightly nutty flavour.
    • Substitutes:
      • Emmental: A cheese with a similar texture, easy to melt, although less intense in flavour.
      • Fontina: A creamy, mild-tasting cheese that can offer a suitable alternative.

Different types of bread

For a good Croque Madame, it is recommended to use bread with a crispy exterior and a softer, porous texture on the inside.

  • Choice:
    • Brioche: Soft, sweet and rich in texture, it’s a truly special treat.
    • Country bread (starchy traditional bread): a type of bread with a rich, crusty crust that holds its shape well.
    • Sourdough: Strong flavour, long-lasting
    • White bread: a simple but classic alternative, easily available and easy to use.

Meat selection

  • Ham: The ideal choice for Croque Madame’s meat is the fine-textured, slightly salty French ham.
    • Substitutes:
      • Turkey sausage: for those who prefer a lighter flavour.
      • Serrano ham or prosciutto: A more intense, more mature flavour, but an ideal choice in thinner slices.

Preparation steps

The preparation of Croque Madame requires the use of strict ingredients and precise cooking techniques. The sandwich is made in a specific order, so it is important to prepare and assemble the various components correctly.

Assembling the sandwich

Start with the basics of the sandwich, where using fresh, high-quality ingredients is important. The sandwich requires two slices of bread, topped with good quality ham and cheese.

  • Ingredients:
    • 2 slices of bread
    • 2 slices of ham
    • A few slices of cheese (emental or gruyère recommended)
  1. Toast the two slices of bread.
  2. Place ham on one side and cheese on the other.
  3. Put the sandwich together.

The bechamel sauce

A classic French béchamel sauce gives Croque Madame its special character. Particular attention must be paid to the density and seasoning of the sauce.

  • Ingredients:
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 2 tablespoons of flour
    • 1 1/2 cups milk
    • Salt, freshly ground black pepper, nutmeg
  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan.
  2. Stir in flour and fry until light brown.
  3. Gradually add the milk and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
  4. Cook the sauce until it is thick and smooth.

Baking and grilling

Baking the sandwich and preparing the soft-boiled egg on top finally brings all the flavours together into a harmonious whole.

  • Ingredients:
    • 1 egg
    • Bechamel sauce
    • Cheese (for béchamel and on top of the sandwich)
  1. Preheat the oven.
  2. Place the sandwich on the baking paper-lined baking tray.
  3. Spoon the bechamel sauce on top of the sandwich and sprinkle with cheese.
  4. Bake the sandwich in the oven until the top is golden and bubbly.
  5. Prepare the soft-boiled egg.
  6. When the sandwich is cooked properly, place the soft-boiled egg on top.

Serving and serving

Croque Madame is an elegant and impressive dish, often served with a fork and knife. This sandwich is typically part of the brunch menu (to find out what brunch is, see our guide) and requires a service that matches the high quality of the food.

Traditional solutions

The traditional serving of Croque Madame reflects the elegance of French cuisine. The sandwich is usually served warm with a freshly fried egg on top, and served with fresh salad leaves or baked potatoes. Some restaurants serve it on metal platters, which further enhance the elegance of the dish. Guests usually eat it with a fork and knife, which allows them to enjoy each delicious, succulent layer with care and quality.

Contemporary versions

While many restaurants continue to prepare this dish according to the classic recipe, contemporary cuisines often experiment with new ingredients and serving methods. For example, you can find variations that include different cheeses, flavoured sauces or even vegetables fried in oil. These modern interpretations are often served on sophisticated ceramic plates, which emphasise the quality of the dish as a delicious brunch. Here, too, etiquette requires guests to comply with the use of forks and knives to ensure that every detail of the dining experience remains outstanding.

Additional information

This paragraph covers the nutritional aspects of Croque Madame and useful practical advice on how to prepare it.

Nutritional factors

A typical Croque Madame sandwich is high in calories, as it is traditionally made with cream, ham and cheese, topped with an egg. The typical ingredients mean that a single portion averages between 700 and 900 calories.

  • Calorie content: 700-900 kcal/serving on average
  • Important nutrients:
    • Carbohydrates: from the base of white bread
    • Proteins: from the ham and the egg fried on top
    • Fats: found in besamel sauce and cheese

Practical advice

To prepare Croque Madame, we give you some tips for a smooth process and a better taste experience.

  • Preparation: you can make some of the sandwich in advance – such as the béchamel sauce or the cheese and ham filling – so it’s quicker to prepare if needed.
  • Leftovers: stored well in the fridge, leftovers can be consumed within 1-2 days.
  • Reheating: it is recommended to reheat in a pan under a lid to keep the bread crispy and the cheese melted again.

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