Croque Madame is a savory, indulgent sandwich, traditionally made with ham, but this vegetarian version uses caramelized onions and garlic to add the savory
Back at it with another round of French Friday! Check out the first French Friday edition – Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee – to see what French Friday is all about!
I had some help with this one from you, my favorite foodie people. Over on Insta stories, it was almost an absolute TIE between the vegetarian and traditional versions.
Naturally, I had to do both!
I’m ecstatic to say: the wait is over! Here is the ultimate vegetarian version and the traditional version. Be warned, you may never look at a sandwich the same again.
WHAT IS A CROQUE MADAME?
Only the greatest, most indulgent sandwich around. The French really have this whole sandwich thing figured out.
It’s essentially like a grilled cheese on steroids. Or a ham and cheese sandwich on steroids. With extra melty cheese and a creamy bechamel sauce piled high on top, the indulgence factor is out of this world.
Traditionally the filling of the sandwich is ham, a thin layer of dijon mustard, and a little more cheese (ahem, GRUYERE) to hold it together.
It’s creamy, savory, slightly salty, and….
AND HAS A FRIED EGG ON TOP.
Or a sunny side up egg. Whatever kind of egg you prefer, really. Can you get more extra? I think not… because this is about as amazing as it gets.
HOW TO MAKE A VEGETARIAN CROQUE MADAME
How does one take a traditionally meat-filled sandwich and turn it into a vegetarian feast? One that’s just as equally indulgent and savory?
Caramelized onions. And garlic.
The answer to everything, my friends.
The onions and caramelized into a rich golden brown, and towards the end of the cooking process the garlic slices are added, they too become caramelized and turn into a deep, savory delicacy.
No one can argue with caramelized onions and garlic in a mix of crusty bread, melty gruyere, and a creamy bechamel. I mean NO ONE can.
Want to really go above and beyond? Put both the caramelized onion mix and the ham together (for meat-eaters obviously) and have a really out of this world experience!
HOW TO LAYER A CROQUE MADAME
I always got confused by this. Maybe it’s the teacher’s brain, maybe it’s just that I couldn’t get past the deliciousness of what was about to be.
But it’s rather quite easy: think grilled cheese.
- Bread slice with Dijon mustard
- Filling (this is where ham, or caramelized onion, or both comes in)
- More cheese
- Second bread slice
- Grilled up on both sides
- Layered with béchamel sauce
- More cheese
- Fried Egg
That seems like a lot of steps when it’s bullet-pointed out, but I promise you it’s not. And it’s so, so worth it.
WAIT, WHAT IS A BECHAMEL?
Simply put, a béchamel is a white sauce.
But it’s the QUEEN of sauces in French cooking.
Luxuriously creamy, it’s made with milk and a roux (flour + butter), and lightly flavored with nutmeg (to bring out the subtleties in the roux and cheese), and garlic in my case, to enhance the flavors as garlic so does.
HOW TO MAKE THE BECHAMEL
You’ll start with a simple roux – a paste of butter and flour.
Then, you’ll slowly whisk in warmed milk. That’s key! You absolutely want the milk to be warm before it’s whisked in, otherwise, you run the risk of burning the roux while the milk comes up to temperature.
And the mix of temperatures just isn’t ideal. Nobody likes a cold shock, especially not your melted butter! Warm that milk!
WHEN TO EAT A CROQUE MADAME
Is it wrong to say for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? It’s basically what I’ve been doing since I first developed my version of this indulgent sandwich.
That being said, while I haven’t been to France yet, I do know that Croque Madame’s are often snacked on in cafes.
But a lazy weekend breakfast? Absolutely.
How about brunch? Of course.
Hangover cure? Most definitely.
“Breakfast” for dinner? Always.
Basically, just go ahead and enjoy one whenever the mood strikes. Traditional or vegetarian, this sandwich is going to quickly be a favorite in your recipe rotation!
When you make this recipe, be sure to take a picture and tag me over on Instagram. I love to see recipes come to life in YOUR kitchen!
Bon appetite, and Happy French Friday!Print
Some say it’s grilled cheese on a whole other level: this traditional French sandwich is made with lots of melty gruyere, a creamy bechamel sauce, and a fried egg! Make it with ham or caramelized onions and garlic for a vegetarian-friendly version!
- 1 1/4 cup whole milk
- 2 TBSP unsalted butter + 4 TBSP for cooking
- 2 TBSP all-purpose flour
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Pinch of nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 4 slices thick French loaf or Sourdough
- Approximately 1 TBSP Dijon mustard
- Approximately 1 1/4 cups shredded gruyere cheese
- Approximately 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- Traditional Version: 8-10 slices of ham, divided
- Vegetarian Version:
- 2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or minced
- 2 eggs
- Bechamel: In a small saucepan, heat milk over low-medium heat. In a separate saucepan, melt butter, and when it begins to foam slightly, stir in the flour until thick – this is your roux. Keep stirring to cook out the raw flour and ensure it doesn’t burn. Slowly whisk/stir in the warmed milk until combined. Add a pinch of salt and pepper (to taste), nutmeg, and garlic powder. Continue to stir while it cooks for 2-3 more minutes – it will thicken. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Caramelized Onions: You’ll want to start these before the bechamel if you’re making them. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and once it’s heated, add the onions and stir to coat. Cook for about 15 minutes, only very occasionally stirring. Be careful to not have the heat too high – you want the onions to slowly brown. If needed, add 1 TBSP water or vegetable stock to moisten pan. Continue cooking for 10-15 minutes (still only stirring occasionally) as onions brown. With 5-8 minutes remaining, add garlic.
- Sandwich Assembly: On each slice of bread, spread a thin layer of dijon mustard across one side. You’ll cook 1 sandwich at a time unless you have a bigger pan!
- Turn the broiler on high – 525°F and have a baking sheet nearby. Stir together shredded cheeses.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 TBSP of butter (if two slices of bread will fit in your pan, you can cook two at once; add 2T butter then).
- Once the butter is melted, but one bread slice down (mustard side up) and layer on a bit of gruyere and parmesan to cover the bread, your filling (ham or caramelized onions – or both!), another layer of cheese (I use about 1/3 – 1/2 cup total for the inside of the sandwich). Place the other slice of bread, mustard side down, on top of the filling. Let cook until golden brown and the cheese is beginning to melt.
- To flip the sandwich, raise up with a spatula, add another tablespoon of butter, and place the new side down into the melted butter. Cook again until golden brown and cheese is melted.
- Transfer to a baking sheet and cook the remaining sandwich the same way.
- Once both “grilled sandwiches” are made and on baking sheets, spread bechamel sauce over the top of the sandwich (again exact amount will vary on your bread size – probably about 1/4 cup for a regular slice of bread; I used more for these large slices). Top each with the remaining cheese mixture (~1/3-1/2 cup). Place in broiler for 3-5 minutes, watching carefully, until tops are golden brown.
- Meanwhile, heat skillet again to medium heat. Add a bit of additional butter or oil of choice and fry the eggs. Once sandwiches are golden brown, remove and top with a fried egg each. Serve immediately with a fork and knife.
Use your bread of choice; sometimes I feel really indulgent and use Brioche (yes!), but I enjoy the heartiness of crusty bread.
The mustard and cheese measurements are approximations because you should create the sandwich that YOU love. The size of your bread slice also plays a HUGE role. I photographed these on massive slices of French bread, and therefore used more cheese! Trust your gut.
You’ll likely have extra bechamel. Store with a piece of parchment or waxed paper against the top to prevent a film from forming from the dairy. Use within 3-ish days.
- Category: Breakfast
- Cuisine: French
Keywords: french, brunch, vegetarian, comfort, winter