Want to make a delicious sandwich even tastier and more filling? Add an egg. Consider the croque monsieur, for example. While it’s delectable on its own, the addition of an egg takes it up a notch. In fact, that egg makes it an entirely different sandwich: the croque madame. 

Perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner—or any time in between—a croque madame sandwich is a warm, filling meal or snack.  

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What Is a Croque Madame Sandwich? 

This classic French sandwich is made with layers of ham, gruyere, and béchamel sauce, then topped with a fried egg. It’s similar to a croque monsieur, which also consists of ham, gruyere, and bechamel—but unlike a croque madame, the croque monsieur doesn’t include an egg. 

Béchamel, Step-by-Step

Create Amazing Béchamel Sauce | Cooking Essentials

Croque Madame Origins

The croque madame—and its counterpart, the croque monsieur—originated in Paris around 1910. According to one story, the croque monsieur originated when a French chef ran out of baguettes for his cafe’s sandwich of the day. As a replacement, he sliced a loaf of white bread, assembled ham and cheese sandwiches, and toasted them until golden and crispy. 

When the sandwich features a fried egg, it’s called a croque madame, as the egg resembles a woman’s wide-brimmed hat. 

croque madame
Source: instagram
Croque madame sandwiches are sometimes served open-faced, without a slice of bread on top, like this one from @toastsforall

Basic Croque Madame Recipe

Learning how to make a croque madame isn’t hard, but it is a bit more involved than your everyday sandwich. Here’s a step-by-step guide. 

Croque Madame Ingredients

First, make sure you have the following ingredients on hand:

  • Bread (try thick brioche or country bread)
  • Ham
  • Gruyere cheese
  • Eggs
  • Béchamel sauce (made with butter, flour, milk, salt, pepper, and nutmeg)
  • Butter

Step 1: Make a Bechamel Sauce

To prepare the béchamel sauce, start by melting one tablespoon of butter in a small saucepan. Add a tablespoon of flour and whisk together until combined. Slowly pour in ⅔ cup milk and whisk until smooth. Bring the mixture to a boil and allow it to thicken, and then remove it from the heat and season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. 

stirring sauce
Create a béchamel sauce with flour, butter, milk, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. 

Step 2: Assemble the Sandwich

Spread a thick layer of béchamel sauce on one slice of bread. Then, add a few slices of ham and gruyere. Place the other slice of bread on top. 

Step 3: Grill the Sandwich 

Brush each side of the sandwich with melted butter. Then, place the sandwich in a skillet heated over medium heat. Grill on each side until golden brown (similar to how you would cook a grilled cheese), then place the pan in a 300-degree oven to finish melting the cheese. 

Step 4: Fry the Egg

While the sandwich is baking, fry an egg in a small skillet with a little butter. Remove the sandwich from the oven and top it with the egg. Serve warm. 

croque madame with fried egg
Source: unsplash
A messy but filling sandwich, a croque madame is topped with a fried egg. 

The Difference Between Croque Madame and Croque Monsieur 

The difference between the croque madame and croque monsieur sandwiches is simply that a croque madame is topped with a fried or poached egg. Under the egg, they’re the exact same sandwich! So the croque madame is sort of a croque monsieur in disguise. She’s a wily one.

Elevate Your Sandwich 

When you combine salty ham, melty gruyere, and creamy béchamel sauce, and you add an egg on top, you simply can’t go wrong. Once you learn how to make a croque madame, your breakfast, brunch, and lunch menus will never be the same again. 

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