I usually have Croque Madame for breakfast or brunch, and my favorite is the one at Douce France, a nice French bakery in the Town and Country Village, in Palo Alto. If you are in the area you should try this place out, for brunch or breakfast, (they open at 7!) as they have delicious treats, good coffee, and also nice service and seating outside, and I love to eat al fresco.
This is how to make a midnight, quick and easy French inspired food:
Ingredients for one portion:
2 slices of french bread. My favorite is the LaBrea Bakery French loaf that we buy from our local Whole Foods
1 tablespoon butter
2 slices of cheese. Gruyere or other cheese you like to use for grilled cheese sandwiches.
2 slices of smoked salmon (you can use ham instead)
If you stop here, you would have a Croque Monsieur. But I prefer to take it further to make it a Croque Madame, and add:
2 fresh eggs
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Fresh ground black pepper
2-3 tablespoons wine vinegar, or lemon juice
The classic Croque Madame recipe calls for Hollandaise sauce. But hey, at 1 AM, I didn't want to make it, so I substituted it with a sauce made simply with mayo and mustard. It works great!
Place a pot with water on heat, with the vinegar or lemon juice, to get to a simmer. You need 1 tablespoon of vinegar per cup of water. Also, if you use a nonstick pot, the water should be 1 inch deep. If is a regular pot, it needs to be about 3 inches deep. You will need this to poach the eggs in. The vinegar/lemon juice will help the eggs keep their shape, and not spread in water.
Place a skillet on medium heat.
Spread the butter on both sides of the bread slices. Toast bread in skillet on both sides.
Place the slices of cheese on top of the bread, turn off the heat, cover, letting them melt.
At this point the water in pot should be simmering. Carefully break the eggs, one at a time in a small bowl, to make sure the yolk is intact, and the egg is good.
Gently drop the egg in the simmering water. Do the same with the second one. Stop the heat, cover, and let the eggs cook for 4-5 minutes. This will make the egg yolk barely runny. If you want them softer, keep them less. Also, if you cook more eggs at once, you have to keep them longer, 7-8 minutes for 4 eggs, for example, as they absorb more heat, therefore they need to cook longer to get the same consistency.
I recently bought this cute egg poacher on my last Williams Sonoma spree, but trying both methods, I kind of prefer to just drop the eggs directly in the pan, it works better.
Very carefully spoon out the eggs, and place on a paper towel for a few seconds to dry them.
Place the slices of smoked salmon on top of the melted cheese.
Add one poached egg on top of each slice.
I let them in the skillet up till before serving, so they stay warm.
Place them on a plate.
Spoon over some sauce.
Season with little salt, not too much as the cheese and salmon are already salty, fresh ground pepper, some cayenne and/or little grated nutmeg.
Enjoy warm, with a side of salad, or just as it is.