Croque Madames and a Basic Grilled Cheese

croquemadame with text

Who doesn’t love a grilled cheese? The answer, for a long time anyway, was my husband.  For the first several years of our marriage, he wouldn’t touch a grilled cheese sandwich…he thought they were too greasy.  This was, of course, much to my chagrin because I had grown up eating grilled cheese sandwiches made with Colonial white bread and Kraft singles….and I’ll tell you, there is nothing quite like a grilled cheese sandwich.  Nothing.

Somewhere along the lines I guess I must have made him one because we didn’t have anything else in the house to eat and then I was exceedingly shocked when I asked him for dinner suggestions while making my grocery list and he suggested something like grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup (another food that he didn’t like back in the day, though my homemade tomato soup can’t really be compared to the canned stuff he had probably eaten in the past).  Add those things to the list of foods that I have converted him to eating, which also includes spinach and shrimp.  Victory for me.

Seriously.  Call it a panini or a pressed sandwich or whatever you want to call it, I just call it good.  You can put anything on it, but if you press together two buttered (or otherwise greased) slices of bread with cheese and possibly some other ingredients and cook it a little bit, it’s a recipe for magic.  Just look at the rabid popularity of the Muenster Truck (try to get in their line at the Sunday market without a wait!).  But you know what?  There’s nothing quite like the original.  While I haven’t made a grilled cheese with Colonial bread or Kraft slices (though I will admit that nothing melts quite like good ol’ Velveeta!) in many many years, I haven’t found a combo much better than just cheddar on good white bread (sourdough is my favorite!).

basic grilled cheese (7 of 10)

Okay, I lied.  I wouldn’t call a Croque Madame better per se, but it’s as good.  I mean, béchamel and a fried egg?  Come on!  The prep time is obviously a little longer, and it’s not health food by anyone’s definition.  But geez, it’s amazingly delicious, and you should definitely eat one of these from time to time.

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Basic Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Serves 1
Prep time 5 minutes
Cook time 8 minutes
Total time 13 minutes
Allergy Milk, Wheat
Dietary Vegetarian
Meal type Lunch, Main Dish

Ingredients

  • 2 Slices bread (good white sandwich bread or sourdough are my favorites)
  • 2 Teaspoons unsalted butter (melted)
  • 1 Ounce cheddar cheese (grated, or use a precut slice)

Note

Using melted butter helps you to avoid the tearing bread that often comes with trying to spread the butter. If you don't have a pastry brush, make sure that your butter is good and soft before you try to spread it!

Covering the pan with a lid while cooking will help to melt the cheese. If you find that your sandwich doesn't brown as quickly as you'd like, turn the heat up a click, but be careful not to burn it!

Sometimes I like to add mayonnaise or a couple of slices of tomato (when they are summer-perfect only, though).

Directions

Step 1
Preheat a skillet over medium-low heat. Brush one side of each slice of bread with melted butter.
Step 2
Top one slice of bread on the unbuttered side with grated or sliced cheese. Top with the other slice of bread, buttered side up. Place in the preheated skillet and cover.
Step 3
Cook for 3-4 minutes or until lightly browned on the bottom. Flip, cover, and cook until lightly browned on the other side, another 3-4 minutes. Serve immediately.

Croque Madame

Serves 4
Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 25 minutes
Total time 35 minutes
Allergy Egg, Milk, Wheat
Meal type Lunch, Main Dish

Ingredients

  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2-3 Ounces Swiss cheese (grated)
  • salt and pepper (to taste)
  • 2 Cups whole milk
  • 8 Slices good white bread (I like sourdough)
  • 8 Teaspoons unsalted butter (melted)
  • 4-6 Sandwich slices Swiss cheese (or 4-6 ounces of grated Swiss cheese)
  • 4-8 Sandwich slices ham (depending on the thickness of the slices. I used Applegate Farms which is fairly thickly sliced so I only used one per sandwich)
  • 4-8 Large eggs (depending on how many fried eggs you'd like to serve on your sandwiches!)
  • olive oil spray or cooking spray

Note

The Croque Madame is the more flamboyant sister of the Croque Monsieur, which isn't topped with an egg.

Directions

Step 1
Prepare the béchamel sauce: Preheat a skillet over medium heat. Melt the butter then whisk in the flour and cook for about a minute. Gradually whisk in the milk. Cook until thick, 6-8 minutes, then whisk in the grated cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm over low heat.
Step 2
Make the sandwiches: Preheat another skillet over medium-low heat. Brush one side of each slice of bread with melted butter and top 4 slices on the unbuttered side with a slice to a slice and a half of cheese or 1 1/2 ounces grated cheese, a slice or two of ham, and another slice of bread, unbuttered side down. Place the sandwiches in the preheated skillet and cover; cook for 3-4 minutes or until lightly browned on the bottom, then flip and repeat (you may need to do this in stages depending on the size of your skillet).
Step 3
Fry the eggs: Preheat a skillet over medium heat. Spray with olive oil or cooking spray (or lightly brush with butter). Crack the eggs into the skillet and lightly salt the tops. When the whites begin to turn opaque just around the edges, turn the heat down to low and cover. Cook for 4-5 minutes, until the whites are set but the yolks are still runny.
Step 4
Preheat the broiler. Place the sandwiches on a sheet tray (since I only made 2 sandwiches, I actually did this right in my skillet). Divide the béchamel among your sandwiches and spread to cover the tops. Broil until they reach desired browning. Top each sandwich with 1-2 fried eggs and serve immediately.

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