I remember my mouth watering as I scrolled through recipe after recipe. I could feel my food excitement building and I quickly made my way back to the place I love...the kitchen. That night I made Ali's croque monsieur with poached eggs and with the very first (very delicious) bite I was reminded of a quote by Alice Waters that hangs in one of my favorite restaurants.
"When you have the best and tastiest ingredients, you can cook very simply and the food will be extraordinary because it tastes like what it is."
Ali's croque monsieur with a poached egg was a simple meal made from simple ingredients, but tasted truly extraordinary.
Croque Monsieur with a Poached Egg(2 open faced sandwiches)
Great bread, cut into thick slicesBéchamel (recipe below)
2-4 slices good quality ham
Grated gruyere cheese
Fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon butter
3 tablespoons finely minced onion
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup whole milk
1 bay leaf
2 eggs (I will usually cook an extra just in case one breaks)
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Prepare pot for eggs. Fill a 10-inch nonstick skillet with two to three inches of water and bring to a simmer.
Prepare the béchamel. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt and cook until the onions are soft, but have not begun to color, about 5-7 minutes. Turn the heat to low and add the flour. Stir to combine with the onion and butter. Cook over low heat until the flour is absorbed, stirring constantly so that it doesn't brown, about 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk. Add the bay leaf.
Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat then reduce the heat to low and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. The mixture should be thick, but if it's too thick and becoming difficult to stir, whisk in a bit more milk, 1 or 2 teaspoons at a time. Remove bay leaf and discard. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
Preheat heat broiler. Place the slices of bread on a rack on a sheet pan and broil each side for about a minute or until golden brown. Watch closely! The bread can go from golden brown to burnt in seconds. Remove pan from oven.
Spread about 1 tablespoon of béchamel over each slice of bread. Top with 1 to 2 slices of ham. Top with grated cheese. Set aside.
For the poached egg. Bring the water to 190 degrees F. Add the vinegar. Gently crack each egg into a small bowl or ramekin. Lower each cup into the water until it touches bottom and gently pour in the egg. Cook for 4 1/2 minutes, adjusting the heat to maintain the temperature. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon, 1 at a time, to a tea towel lined plate.
When the eggs have cooked for about 3 1/2 minutes, place croque monsieur under the broiler and cook until the cheese is bubbling and starting to get brown in spots. Remove from oven. Sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves.
Top each sandwich with a poached egg. Sprinkle with a pinch of flaky salt and freshly cracked pepper.
Recipe barely adapted from Alexandra Cooks