Every Francophile has eaten a croque-monsieur, which is essentially a hot ham and cheese sandwich, the top spread with a layer of béchamel sauce and grated cheese, then grilled until golden and bubbly. You can get one in any café, where it is eaten from a little plate, either at a small table or standing at the bar, using a knife and fork. A croque-madame is exactly the same, with a fried egg on top. Why is it madame when it has an egg? No one knows. I decided to make a version with crab meat, which I thought would be novel, until I discovered it had already been invented, many times over. It seems there already exists the crab toastie, an American open-face snack made with English muffins. And crab toasties are well known in the British Isles as well. I pushed mine in a slightly creole direction, adding cayenne, tarragon and chives.
- Serves: 6 persons
- Unsalted butter
- 6slices rustic country bread, about 1/2 inch thick, or day-old white bread, sliced 3/4 inch thick
- 2tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2cups whole milk, heated
- Salt and pepper
- Pinch of grated nutmeg
- ¼cup crème fraîche
- 1pound cooked crab meat
- 1teaspoon paprika
- Pinch of cayenne
- Pinch of smoked Spanish pimentón dulce or chipotle powder
- ½teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 2teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 2tablespoons snipped chives, plus more for garnish
- 1teaspoon chopped tarragon
- 6thin slices ham or prosciutto cotto
- 4ounces grated white Cheddar or Gruyère cheese, about 1 1/2 cups
- 6small eggs
- 1tablespoon chopped parsley, for garnish
Step 1Place a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly butter both sides of each bread slice. Add slices to pan and let sizzle until crisp and golden on each side, working in batches if necessary. Place browned slices in one layer on a baking sheet and set aside.
Step 2Make the béchamel: Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and let cook for 1 minute without coloring. Whisk in milk, then turn heat to low and continue cooking. Adjust heat to keep sauce at a bare simmer, whisking occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until smooth and medium-thick. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and stir in crème fraîche. Set aside and keep warm.
Step 3Heat oven to 425 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine crab meat, paprika, cayenne, pimentón, lemon zest and mustard. Add 1/2 cup warm béchamel sauce, the chives and the tarragon and stir well to combine.
Step 4Put one thin slice of ham on each slice of grilled bread. Mound crab mixture onto each toast, dividing evenly among the 6 slices.
Step 5Spoon remaining béchamel sauce evenly over crab mixture and sprinkle with cheese. Place baking sheet on top shelf in oven and bake for 10 minutes, until bubbling and well browned.
Step 6Meanwhile, cook eggs sunny side up in a small amount of melted butter. To serve, top each crab toast with an egg. Sprinkle with chives and parsley.