I took a classic croque-madame and turned it on its head adding spinach to the béchamel and replaced the ham with smoked salmon. It was too damned delicious.
This is winter comfort food at its best and perfect for breakfast or lunch.
Croque monsieur is a French bistro classic and when covered in a cheesy béchamel sauce with a lightly fried or poached egg on top it become a Croque Madame. I used a buttermilk rye bread because I prefer using an interesting loaf to make a sandwich of this stature. It also holds together when frying. Any nice country loaf or sourdough would be equally as good, even a bread that is going stale would work as the stint in the bubbling butter will bring it back to delicious life.
Instead of adding the béchamel to the top, I made a thick white sauce to which I added a really nice sharp cheese. Emmental, Comté, Gruyère or aged Cheddar work well here. I love Dijon so gave it a good dose of that, and then added my blanched baby spinach leaves to the mix to make an almost paste-like spread. I love lightly smoked trout as an alternative to smoked salmon too and used about 45 grams per sandwich. You can be as generous or as skimpy as you like.
The sauce can be made in advance and then all that is needed is to fry your eggs gently in butter and toast your sandwichesbefore you serve. Its best to work with two pans here so you can time things so they finish cooking simultaneously and everything is nice and hot.
Any left over sauce makes a great filling for a toasted cheese. You can check out this favourite recipe of mine with Cheddar and buttery braised leeks. I mean who doesn’t just love toasted cheese in any permutation?
Recipe (The bechamel sauce makes enough for about 6 – 8 sandwiches)
- 200g baby spinach leaves
- 50gm butter
- 1/4 cup flour + 2 tablespoons
- 1 cup milk
- 2 tsp Dijon Mustard
- 50g sharp cheese of your choice
- salt and pepper
For each sandwich you will need
- 2 slices of bread – fairly thickly sliced
- 1 fried egg per sandwich
- 40m – 50gm smoked salmon
- Butter to spread on the outside slices
- a generous scoop of the spinach béchamel
Blanch the spinach leaves in boiling salted water for three minutes, set aside and drain. When it is cool enough to handle, squeeze out all excess water with your hand and then roughly chop.
Melt the butter in a small pot and add the flour, stir to form a roux. Add the milk in parts stirring constantly to prevent lumps. I prefer to use a whisk for this. Add the Dijon and season with salt and pepper. When the raw flour has been cooked out, add the chopped spinach and cheese and allow this to cook briefly and the cheese to melt. Set aside.
When you are ready to serve, spread butter on the outer sides of the assembled sandwich and fry in a medium hot skillet until golden brown. While thats on the go, fry an egg for each sandwich and place it on top.