I hope you aren't offended by the fact that I took spring's first asparagus and smothered it in cheese, cheese sauce and then more cheese. Sorry, I couldn't help myself.
But this sandwich is so good. And it's pretty impressive for the minimal effort you put into it. I hardly felt like making dinner tonight, I have been knocking myself out with spring cleaning this week. But I knew making this sandwich would be the perfect ending to a long day. And it sure was.
Croque-Madame is the "female" version of a Croque-Monsieur, which is a French sandwich of ham and cheese, topped with bechamel and more cheese and broiled to golden perfection. It becomes a Croque-Madame when you top it with a poached or fried egg. It is thought that the reason for the name is that the egg on top resembles an old fashioned women's hat.
If you like you can certainly leave out the egg, the sandwich is still just as delicious. Ugh, just look at that, so good!
Croque-Madame with Roasted Asparagus
makes 4 sandwiches
1 bundle of asparagus, tough ends snapped off
extra-virgin olive oil
salt & pepper
1 T. unsalted butter
1 1/2 T. flour
1 c. hot milk
dash of fresh nutmeg
8 oz. Gruyere cheese, shredded
1/4 c. fresh grated Parmesan cheese
8 slices of good quality white bread, crusts trimmed
4 slices of Black Forest ham
4 eggs, poached or fried
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees f. On a large baking sheet, toss asparagus with a little olive oil, salt & pepper. Roast until just tender, about 10 minutes, shaking the pan once or twice to redistribute the asparagus. Remove from oven and set aside.
2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat, whisk in the flour, cook and stir for about 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly, simmer for about 2 minutes to thicken. Remove from heat, add nutmeg, 1/8 t. salt, a bit of fresh ground black pepper, 1/4 c. shredded Gruyere and 1/4 c. Parmesan. Stir to combine, set aside.
3. On another baking sheet, place the bread slices. Bake for 5 minutes, flip bread and bake about another 4 minutes (keeping an eye on it), until the bread is lightly toasted. Remove from oven. Spread 4 of the slices lightly with Dijon mustard, top with a layer of ham, a few asparagus spears and half the remaining Gruyere cheese. Top with the remaining toasted bread. Slather the tops of the sandwiches with some of the bechamel sauce and top with the rest of the cheese. Bake sandwiches for 5 minutes, then broil until bubbly and golden, about another 3-5 minutes. Serve sandwiches topped with a poached or fried egg.