Deconstructed Croque Madame
It’s entirely possible that I’ve been watching too many episodes of Chopped or just Food Network shows in general. Let me explain.
The other day I went to my favorite local bakery and got two loaves of brioche. Yes…two. I love brioche more than any other type of bread and it’s really hard for me to resist. I’ve also had great success baking with it lately. For example one of my most favorite breakfast dishes of all time is my Banana Split Brioche French Toast Stack. With that in mind I bought the two loaves but wasn’t sure what I’d do with them. I had some Tasso ham left over from my Creamy Sunchoke Soup with Tasso and Chèvre Croquettes so I decided I’d make Croque Monsieur sandwiches. If you’re not familiar, it’s a French sandwich made with ham and gruyere and béchamel (pronounced BAY-sha-mel, a sauce made with butter, flour and cheese). They turned out really, really good but I still had an entire loaf left and time was running out. It seems the bread you get fresh from a bakery gets stale quicker than store bought bread and mine was quickly getting stiff. That’s not a good thing since brioche is best when it’s super soft. What can I do with stale bread? Ding, ding! There’s the lightbulb. (No, lightbulbs don’t make sounds but the one in my head did.) Bread pudding is always made with day old bread. Then it hit me. A Deconstructed Croque Madame.
A Croque Madame is just a Croque Monsieur with a fried egg on top. Here’s where the Food Network came into play. Normally I’m not one for super fancy foods or things that the average person isn’t familiar with but I couldn’t get calling it deconstructed (which really just means a sandwich or other dish taken apart and prepared differently than the way it’s generally known) out of my head. I’ve been watching all those shows, especially the competitions where the contestants are given strange foods and they have to make something amazing in a short amount of time with it. They would totally take ingredients and throw them together and call it deconstructed. Almost everyone knows what bread pudding is but do we all know what a deconstructed sandwich is? Probably if you watch the Food Network a lot like I do. I tossed it around and back and forth and realized I had to call it deconstructed and not bread pudding. I guess I was just feeling fancy!
The result? Better than the sandwich. Truly. I’ll never make either the Madame or the Monsieur in sandwich form again. It was the perfect use of a stale loaf of brioche! Oh how I love it when a plan comes together!!
A twist on the traditional French sandwich this Deconstructed Croque Madame is just as tasty and much easier to eat.
- 5 cups cubed day old brioche loaf
- 3/4 cups milk
- 1 3/4 cups cooked ham diced
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups cream or half and half
- 1 1/2 cups gruyere, grated
- 3/4 cup parmesan, grated
- salt and pepper to taste
- pinch of freshly grated nutmeg, optional
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 2-3 eggs
- Place cubed bread in the bottom of a medium casserole dish.
- Pour milk over the top and set aside.
- In a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat cook ham until beginning to show a golden brown color. Set aside.
- Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
- In a large sauce pan over medium heat melt butter.
- Once butter is completely melted add flour all at once and whisk until smooth.
- Whisk in heavy cream (or half and half) and bring to a low boil.
- Allow to boil for a minute or two until thickened.
- Add 2 1/4 cup gruyere and parmesan and stir until smooth. Remove from heat.
- Add salt and pepper to taste and a pinch of nutmeg if desired.
- Top cubed bread with browned ham.
- Pour 3/4 of the béchamel (cheese mixture) to the bread and ham and stir to combine.
- Taste and top with remaining béchamel if desired.
- Place casserole in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes until warm throughout and browned on top.
- Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat until hot.
- Gently add eggs and cook until the white is done but the yellow is still intact and runny, about 3 minutes.
- Remove the casserole from the oven and top with eggs.
- Serve immediately.
I had some other ideas, too. It could be Croque Madame Bread Pudding or Croque Madame Casserole or even Baked Croque Madame. What would you have chosen?