mrs. crunch sandwich
This is my own favorite deity in the croque monsieur/croque madame/croque-whatever pantheon. It borrows from Jaques Pepin and uses chicken in place of ham; it takes from sadistic cafe owners everywhere and lays the béchamel on thick. And it has bacon just because (though it’s perfectly fine without).
Look on my sandwich, ye Mighty, and despair.
The croque monsieur (Mr. Crunch) is a French bar and cafe staple, almost a cliche, really. It’s delicious—ham, gruyère, and good white bread, grilled or baked in butter, sometimes with white sauce and sometimes without. The croque madame (Mrs. Crunch) adds a soft-yolked egg. But any combination of things is bound to taste good when slathered in béchamel and cooked till toasty. Indeed, Wikipedia says that you can find variations cutely named the croque norvegien (smoked salmon in place of ham), croque provencal (with tomato), and (hilariously!) croque senor (with salsa).
Simple croque monsieurs make excellent late night après-bar snack. This elaborate version is better eaten for a late lunch, with a cup of coffee and a newspaper.
Favorite croque madame
First, gather your ingredients. For two sandwiches, you will want:
- two thin slices off a large white miche or boule, large enough to cut into two sandwiches. Or any other sturdy white bread that will grill well.
- Dijon-style mustard.
- bacon (totally optional)
- chopped chives
- a couple ounces of grated Gruyère or Emmentaler
- cooked chicken, sliced thin, or good-quality ham
You will also need:
- two tablespoons of butter, divided
- two eggs
- a tablespoon of flour
- a cup of milk (skim is fine)
Make a béchamel. For two sandwiches, melt one tablespoon of the butter in a small skillet. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring, until it goes dark blond. Whisk in the milk and bring to a boil, whisking all the while. The sauce will thicken once it boils fully. Season with salt, pepper, and a very little nutmeg; set aside and keep warm with a circle of parchment placed directly on the surface of the sauce (or just stir it once in a while to break up any skin).
Now assemble the sandwich. Lay up your slices of bread with insides facing up. On one side, spread a layer of sauce; top with half of the cheese and the chives (and the bacon, of using). On the other, spread a layer of mustard. Top with the chicken or ham. Invert one on top of the other and butter the topmost side of the bread.
Heat up a large skillet and grill the buttered side first until it is brown and toasty, pressing down once in a while. Butter the now-exposed face of the bread and flip the sandwich. Cook until it is brown on the second side, too; then transfer the sandwich to a baking sheet and wipe out the skillet.
Preheat the broiler. Spread the top of the sandwich thickly with béchamel and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Broil for two minutes or so, until the sauce and cheese are both brown and bubbling. Turn off the broiler and put the sandwich in the lowest part of the oven to keep warm.
Fry your eggs in the remaining butter, coaxing the whites into a nice compact shape if your eggs aren’t spanking-fresh. Put an egg on each sandwich.
Serve with a sharp knife, a fork, a very simple salad, and possibly a 5-mile run.