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I started taking French classes in 8th grade. It was an "intro to French" class and we really didn't learn too much actual French. Mostly it was about French culture and French food. I have strong memories of learning to read a French menu. (To be fair, this is actually a pretty handy skill to have. And also, my Spanish knowledge is also pretty limited to food.)
The two items that stand out most in my memory were the citron presse (like a lemonade) and the croque monsieur/madame. The croque monsieur is a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. The croque madame is the same thing, but with a fried egg on top.
I've been to Paris two times, and both times I've managed to enjoy the ubiquitous sandwich. In a way, it really encompasses everything that is amazing about French food - simple and decadent. Such an odd dichotomy, right? But when you think about it, it doesn't get more basic than a ham and cheese sandwich. And the French take that idea and elevate it by warming it up and topping it with a rich, cheesy sauce, and a buttery egg.
The croque madame was the first meal a young Kim Sunee enjoyed at 18 when she ventured to Paris. Sitting in a cafe by herself, drinking a glass of red wine and taking an assessment of herself. The first step on her road of self-discovery.
Croque Madame (From Trail of Crumbs)
4 slices sourdough bread
4 slices ham
1 cup grated gruyere
1 cup Mornay sauce
2 sunny side up eggs
- Heat a large oven proof skillet over medium high heat. Butter bread on all sides and top 2 of the slices with ham and a smear of dijon.
- Top with half of the cheese and cover with remaining bread slices.
- Place sandwiches buttered side down into the skillet, pressing gently with back of spatula. Let cook 1-2 minutes or until bottom is slightly golden.
- Top with mornay sauce and remaining cheese. Place skillet in oven and broil 1 to 2 minutes, or until golden and bubbly.
- Top with fresh sunny side up egg.
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbps flour
1 cup milk
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
3/4 cup grated gruyere
- Melt butter in a heavy bottom saucepan over medium high heat.
- Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly, about 1 minute.
- Add milk, whisking constantly. Bring to a low boil and cook, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes more.
- Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
- Remove from heat and stir in cheese.