Croque Madame & Photo Roundup: Valentine’s Day

croque madame

If there had to be a theme to my Valentine’s Day, I think it would be “making food for Josh that he absolutely loves and I never make for some reason.” A close runner up would be “delicious.”

This man’s favorite breakfast, brunch, and lunch is a croque madame. I know this not because he’s ever told me explicitly, but because when he sees that one is offered in a restaurant, his menu closes immediately. For someone who probably wouldn’t ever call himself a “foodie,” he sure can talk your ear off about how great a croque madame is. And his face lights up like a Christmas tree while he describes it to you.

bechamel sauce

Back in San Diego, he had a mental score sheet of how all the croque madames in town stacked up to each other, and the elements of each he liked best.

You’re probably getting the picture. So… the fact that I had never made him one of these decadent delights until recently is a crime. I don’t even have a good excuse! “I don’t know,” doesn’t really cut it here! This needed to be corrected.

gruyere cheese

Lucky for him, I have a food blog to be thinking about – I just couldn’t make such an epic breakfast without sharing it with you. Sometimes that means making it twice.

Since cooking a new recipe while photographing it on a weekday morning sounded hilariously impossible, he got a sandwich on Sunday when I took these photos, and one on Tuesday for Valentine’s Day. It kind of worked out perfectly since the recipe makes 4 sandwiches, and a bechamel sauce will keep in the fridge for a few days. I prepped the entire recipe but only assembled two sandwiches at a time- voila!

mini assembly line

I think I redeemed myself using this recipe from Alex Guarnaschelli. Josh ranked this rendition second only to one from the mac daddy of French comfort food in San Diego – Cafe Chloe. That’s quite an accomplishment if you ask me; some of my favorite meals of all time have come from that tiny little restaurant.

under the broiler

So now you’ve met meal #1 from the day of “making food for Josh that he absolutely loves and I never make for some reason”. What did the rest of this lovely holiday consist of? Well…

In the afternoon I went to Josh’s work – Meebo. They asked me to be a judge for their Valentine’s Day baking contest! Much fun and indulgence was had by all. AND! I got a cute little book on cupcakes for all of the super hard work that goes into judging a baking contest. I’m available for next year, just FYI.

lining up and the aftermath

lemon bars

happy "meelantine's" day chocolate cake

s'mores cookies

oatmeal craisin cookies

peanut butter pie

meebo blue (red) velvet cheesecake w/ fresh meebo yellow whipped cream

lining up, voting, and awards

After that, it was time to get started on dinner! And what was the second food Josh loves that I had never made? RIBS. Again, don’t know what my problem was there, but I fixed it! I also made two of his favorite sides: roasted asparagus, and rustic (aka I couldn’t be bothered with peeling them) mashed potatoes.

prep, cheese plate, and champagne

roasted asparagus, ribs, and mashed potatoes

By the way, I’ll definitely be coming back with a rib recipe in the near future – the technique I used was unbelievably easy and yielded amazing results!

For now, I leave you with the croque madame!


Croque Madame

Recipe adapted ever so slightly from Alex Guarnaschelli

You need something acidic on the side to cut through the insane richness of this sandwich. We like ours with a side of mixed greens and a balsamic vinaigrette.


  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, divided
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 8 slices thick sourdough bread
  • 8 to 12 slices good quality ham (about 3/4 pound)
  • 12 ounces gruyere cheese, grated, divided
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat the broiler. Make the bechamel sauce: In a small saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until you smell the flour and butter cooking, 2 to 3 minutes. Do not allow it to brown. Add the milk and bay leaf and cook, stirring from time to time, until the mixture thickens like a soup, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and stir in the salt and parmesan. Transfer to a bowl to cool.
  2. Arrange 4 slices of the bread on a flat surface. Top each with 2 to 3 slices of ham. Mix together half of the gruyere cheese and the bechamel sauce. Taste for seasoning. Spread a little of the sauce on top of the ham and top each with another slice of bread.
  3. Heat a large cast iron skillet and, when hot, add half of the remaining butter. Add 2 of the sandwiches and brown on one side, 2 minutes. Turn on the other side and brown 2 more minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet. Wipe out pan and repeat with the remaining butter and sandwiches. Spread the remaining béchamel on top of the sandwiches and top with the other half of the gruyere cheese.
  4. Wipe out the cast iron skillet and add vegetable oil. Crack 4 eggs into the skillet, leaving a little room between each. (Alternatively, fry 2 at a time). While the eggs are frying, place the sandwiches under the broiler and broil until the top becomes golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Season the eggs with salt and pepper; top each sandwich with a fried egg. Serve immediately.


4 sandwiches


Posted in: Bread, Breakfast & Brunch, Cheese & Dairy, Life Outside the Kitchen, Mains, Pork, Sandwiches, Winter

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9 Responses to “Croque Madame & Photo Roundup: Valentine’s Day”

  1. Liz says:

    Oh, who could resist one of these beauties?! All that cheese….mmmmmmmm…I’m sold!

  2. sara says:

    The croque madame looks totally decadent and delicious! 🙂

  3. Norbert says:

    Brittany – this blog and project of yours is stunningly good. Everything about it is amazing. The photos, the dishes, the ideas and the very clever and entertaining copy. Keep it rolling.

  4. Elaine W says:

    Thanks so much for adding your expertise and enthusiasm to our judging panel! Josh is a very lucky guy and those croques look amazing!

  5. Natalie says:

    Wow…. I know my husband would absolutely LOVE these (as would I)! Great job. They’re definitely on my list of things to do… SOON!!

  6. Just stopping by from FoodBuzz…This is one of my favorites! Love your photos


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