In our house, it’s rare that we do anything so steeped in a tradition written down in rule such as actual French food. The precision and potential for blaspheming is high, and neither of us like to fail. All fears aside, much of French cuisine is indeed simple food that’s had tradition and rules imposed upon it from years of perfection. What’s to say the rules can’t be broken from time to time? I think this is especially the case when it’s something to simple and timeless as a Croque Madame, or a ham and cheese with an egg and some sauce.
Yes, that’s right. Go ahead and Google it. I dare you. A Croque Madame is simply a piece of bread with ham, (Swiss) cheese, bechamel sauce, and a hat – a fried egg (without the hat, it’s a Croque Monsieur; what proper lady would go gallivanting about without a hat?). All this goes under the broiler for a few minutes and then is served. It’s super simple to make, takes about five minutes, and only requires a bit of ham other than foods we tend to keep in the house. That and bread, which is where the “Faux” comes in in our recipe.
It happened quite by accident. We like to make as much as we can ourselves. It saves on ingredients (since we know everything we put into our food), it saves money (it’s rare that making it yourself is more expensive than buying processed), and it’s fun. Husband and child spend days making bread. Sometimes, I even get to help. Most weeks, husband will bake bread once or twice. We try to plan some meals, such as a Croque Madame, that will utilize the bread. Unfortunately, the last time we planned this, the bread went stale before Croque Madame night. The bread was pulverized into crumbs and left for another day.
But we still had Croque Madame to make and eat.
“We could do commando Croque Madame,” I said.
Husband pointed out this would leave bechamel all over the tray.
This is a point when plans fail. Sometimes, we’ll throw our hands up in the air and order a pizza. This night though, this night there was a stroke of genius.
“Polenta!” Husband and I both came to the same conclusion within seconds. We had plenty of polenta in the cupboard. And, it’s so easy to make, it added hardly any time. Husband got started on the polenta right away, then straight into the bechamel. He made extra bechamel to be turned into macaroni and cheese later in the week. We’re not big fans of spending a whole day in the kitchen to make meals for the month, but, we will kill two birds with one stone when we can.
So, here it is, a Faux Croque Madame, straight from the Justice kitchen.
Ham – a slice or two for each will do
Prepare the polenta. Spread it out on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicon mat. Toss it under the broiler for a minute or so. Pull it out, and cut rings (we used a circle cookie cutter. You could do other fun shapes. I suppose this possibility is another reason to use polenta). The rest of the polenta was an addition to my lunches that week. Place the circles (or other shape) back on the lined cookie sheet (we didn’t change the liner. I suppose you could).
Prepare the bechemel
Fry an egg
Build your sandwich! Layer on the ham, cheese, egg, and sauce. Toss under the broiler for about five minutes. You’ll want your cheese to be melty and your sauce a bit set from the heat of the broiler. Top with the basil, and serve with mustard.