There once was a bar on New York’s Lower East Side where we used to go when we were young. Let’s call that place, “Trombones.” It had an upstairs and a downstairs and a room in the way back where little indie bands would play. And boys wore their skinniest jeans, and girls turned in their hips and knees, so we wouldn’t seem sexy in an obvious way, but nights there led to sex nonetheless. Nights there started late and ended in the almost-morning. And when we were done drinking Manhattans and Martinis and lowbrow beer, we’d all stumble around the corner to a cafe for breakfast and champagne., so as not to get carsick on the L train on the way home to Williamsburg.
The specialty of the house? A croque madame, of course. It’s goopy, creamy, melty, salty, nutty, crunchy, browned, and decadently smothered in yolk. I love this sandwich. It is the perfect sandwich. It’s as elegant as a one-armed whore in the moonlight. It can save you from hunger or hangover. Tonight we served ours with a simple green salad, dressed in a light vinaigrette.
Adapted from a recipe on Saveur; Makes 3 sandwiches
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 heaping tablespoon flour
- 1 cup whole milk
- 6 oz. Gruyere, grated
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
- Pinch fresh-grated nutmeg
- 6 slices country-style white bread
- 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 9 thin slices of Black Forest ham
- Canola oil
- 3 eggs
Make the Bechamel sauce: melt butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in flour and cook, about two minutes. Whisk in the milk, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until thickened, 6-7 minutes. Remove from heat and add 1/4 cup of the Gruyere and Parmesan mixture. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
On a parchment-covered baking sheet, arrange three slices of bread. Spread with mustard and top with ham. Top with remaining Gruyere mixture. Melt under the broiler, approximately 2 minutes. Top with second slice of bread, top with Bechamel. Broil again, 3-4 minutes or until sauce is brown and bubbly.
Meanwhile, fry the eggs in canola oil in a skillet over medium heat, until the whites are cooked, but the yolks are runny, about 3 minutes. Place eggs on top of sandwiches and serve immediately with a knife and fork.