Chez Fonfon is my very, very favorite restaurant and the site of the best meal I’ve ever eaten (some cut of lamb in navy beans—I don’t remember the details, but every bite was amazing). Beyond the atmosphere, beyond every lamb dish I’ve ever tried there, I love it because I can eat for about $10 (croque madame or croque monsieur) or $60 (Valentine’s Day 2007), depending on my mood.
On Sunday I sat down with a few cookbooks and flipped through recipes while composing my grocery list. One of the books I referenced was Kim Sunee’s Trail of Crumbs, and I couldn’t resist adding the ingredients for her croque madame to my list. Now, I’ve had both at Fonfon and I really prefer the monsieur, but I’ll try almost anything. Plus, this recipe looked easy.
A skillet, a sauce pan and one small cake pan later, my kitchen sink may have convinced you otherwise—but really, it was a pretty quick Monday night meal that required minimal coordination. (I did overcook the egg for my sandwich while I waited for the sandwich to bubble in the oven, but every first attempt deserves a little grace.) The result? Incredibly satisfying, despite the aforementioned egg and the fact that I substituted mozzarella for Gruyere. (Shush. It was what I had on hand.)
This is basically a really decadent ham-and-cheese sandwich with an egg on top to elevate it from a monsieur to a madame. Substitute thin slices of grilled chicken for the ham. I like my egg sunny-side up so I can swirl the cheese sauce into the warm yolk, but poached or over easy eggs would work as well.
4 slices sourdough or pain de mie (white sandwich bread)
4 slices good-quality cooked ham (or chicken)
Dijon mustard (optional)
1 cup grated Gruyère or Emmentaler cheese, divided
1 ½ to 2 cups Mornay Sauce
2 sunny-side up eggs
Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Butter bread on all sides, and top 2 of the slices with ham (sometimes I add a smear of Dijon). Top with half the cheese and cover with remaining bread slices. Place sandwiches in skillet, pressing gently with back of spatula. Let cook about 1 to 2 minutes or until bottom is lightly golden. Top with Mornay Sauce and remaining cheese. Place overnproof skillet in oven, and broil 1 to 2 minutes (be careful not to burn) or until golden and bubbly. Top with egg, and serve immediately.
I usually make this in a nonstick saucepan, which makes for easy cleanup.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 ½ to 2 cups milk (whole or 2 percent)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh- ground pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
3/4 cup coarsely grated Gruyère or Comté cheese (about ¼ pound)
Melt butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly, about 1 minute (do not let brown). Add milk, whisking constantly. Bring to a low boil and cook, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes more. (Once it boils, if too thick add more milk.) Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Remove from heat, and stir in cheese.
–Trail of Crumbs, Kim Sunee