Paris

Paris is the ultimate food destination.  It is no wonder why.  The French method of cooking is the fundamental concept which forms the basis of an innumerable amount of recipes, successful restaurants and happy diners.

For me, memories of Paris are conjured by the Croque Madame (or croque-à-cheval).  My latest food obsession is Rachel Khoo (rachelkhoo.com).  Her take on the Croque Madame, in the form of a Croque Madame Muffin worked a treat for me.

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You see, the Croque Madame is typically a lunch snack for the French, but I like it for its indulgence and what better time to serve it than on a lazy Sunday morning.

Rachel’s concept is fantastic one. She adopted the Croque Madame sandwich into a compact size by baking it a muffin case. For my version, I’ve used a mini cocotte.  I’ve also adapted the basic béchamel sauce through the addition of Gruyère cheese.  If you don’t have Gruyère available, try Emmenthaler.

Recipe: Croque Madame Cocotte

Ingredients:

2 small free range eggs

2 slices of ham off the bone

4 slices of white bread

3 tbs butter

¾ cup milk

1 tbs plain flour

¼ cup gruyère cheese – grated

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

Method:

To start, pop 1 tbs of butter in a pan over a medium heat.  Let it melt. Add the flour and beat hard until you have a smooth paste. Take off the heat and leave to cool for 2 minutes, then gradually add the milk, whisking constantly. Place the pan back over a medium heat, add the nutmeg, and simmer gently for 10 minutes, whisking frequently to stop the sauce burning on the bottom of the pan. Once the sauce thickens take it off the heat. Add the Gruyère (keep a little for later) and taste for seasoning. If the sauce is too thick, add a little more milk.

Heat your oven to 170ºc. Melt the rest of your butter and lightly coat the insides of your cocottes. Don’t use all your butter here, because you’ll need the rest for your bread.

Cut the crusts off your bread and coat each side with the remaining melted butter.  Once coated, squish 2 slices of bread into each cocotte.  You’re looking for a bread cup, in essence.

Line each bread cup with ham, a dollop of sauce and an egg. If your eggs are large they will likely completely fill your cocotte, and if so, discard of the some egg white (or remove before putting the egg into the cocotte).  Another dollop of sauce, some seasoning to taste, topped off with herbs of your choice (try dill or chives), a crowning of leftover grated Gruyère and you’re ready to cook!

Place your cocottes into the oven for 15 mins.  If you prefer a cooked yolk, 20 minutes should do the trick.

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