To make these easy croque madame muffins from Rachel Khoo, sliced bread is buttered then pressed into muffin tins. Each bread cup is filled with ham, eggs, and Gruyère cheese then baked until golden.
Croque monsieur is essentially a toasted cheese and ham sandwich. Put a fried egg on top and you’ve got a croque madame (the egg is supposed to resemble a lady’s hat). What makes the difference between a toasted cheese and ham sandwich and a croque monsieur is the cheese—in a croque monsieur it comes in the form of a creamy cheese sauce. And boy, does this make a difference! It’s a terrific way to make eggs for a crowd, too. My version of croque madame uses the bread as a muffin cup to contain the delicious cheese sauce and egg. Great as a snack, or have it with a green salad and fries, as they serve it in French cafés.–Rachel Khoo
Croque Madame Muffins
- Jumbo muffin tin or 6 ramekins
For the cheese sauce
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon lukewarm milk preferably whole, plus more as needed
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg*
- 1/4 cup grated Gruyère or mature Comté cheese (or a strong hard cheese like Parmesan or mature Cheddar), plus more for sprinkling
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the muffins
- 6 slices white bread crusts removed
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter melted, plus more for the tin
- 2 1/2 ounces ham cut into cubes or thin strips
- 6 small eggs
Make the cheese sauce
- Toss the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and wait for it to melt. Add the flour and stir vigorously until a smooth paste forms. Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool for 2 minutes.
- Then slowly and gradually add the milk to the paste, whisking constantly until the sauce is smooth. Place the pan back over medium heat, add the mustard and nutmeg, and simmer gently, whisking frequently to prevent the sauce from burning, until it thickens and has the consistency of a thick tomato sauce, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
- Add the cheese to the sauce and whisk until it melts. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If the sauce seems too thick, add a little more milk; if the sauce seems lumpy, strain it through a sieve. Let it rest at room temperature.
Assemble the croque madame muffins
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter a 6-cup jumbo muffin tin or 6 ramekins.
- Flatten the bread slices with a rolling pin and then brush each slice on both sides with the melted butter. Gently press a slice of bread in each cup of the muffin tin and tamp it down with the bottom of a narrow glass, a skinny jar, a vitamin bottle, or whatever you can find that fits.
- Divide the ham among the muffin cups. Crack the eggs into a small dish, 1 at a time, allowing the white to go into the dish and cupping the yolk in the shell. Gently place a yolk in each bread-lined muffin cup. Gently whisk the egg whites and pour a little into each muffin cup, not quite filling them completely. (You may have some egg whites leftover and that's okay.) Spoon about 2 tablespoons cheese sauce on top of each egg, then sprinkle with the reserved grated cheese and pepper.
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on how runny you like your egg yolks. Serve immediately.
*Why is there nutmeg in béchamel sauce?Béchamel traditionally has a little sprinkle of nutmeg in it–that’s just the french way, mon chou. You shouldn’t be able to pick out the flavor, necessarily, but you should pick up on warmth and added complexity in the sauce. Béchamel (without the added cheese) isn’t super flavorful and the nutmeg just adds a little je ne sais quoi. You can reduce the amount of nutmeg, however, we’d not recommend leaving it out entirely. You can replace it with mace, if you’re out.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
At first, I was pretty skeptical of this recipe. I mean, rolling white bread to make the crust? Well, to my surprise, this was short, easy, and above all else, yummy. My only recommendation is to be sure to butter your muffin tin before pushing the rolled-out bread inside. Mine stuck pretty badly so a little extra butter would’ve gone a really long way.
The flavor of these breakfast cups is fabulous. The taste of the fresh nutmeg intermingled with the Gruyère cheese is very memorable. I also really love the idea of using grocery-store white bread as a pastry. Surprisingly, it works. This recipe should easily feed 5 or 6 average people, or 3 VERY hungry folks.
These muffins were every bit as wonderful as I hoped they’d be. First, I love the cleverness that turns breakfast into muffins, and then I also love the combination of egg+cheese+ham. The instructions were easy to follow and the timing on everything from the cheese sauce to the baking to the overall time was spot-on. I’m certain we’ll be making them again.
I’d say this serves 6 as an appetizer or as a part of breakfast/brunch, or 3 as a lunch or dinner (I ate 2 and my husband ate 3 along with some roasted asparagus). I used a regular-size muffin tin and had some problems with overflowing eggs. This was after pouring a fair amount of the whites off from my large eggs. At least half of the space in the muffin cups was taken up by the bread and the ham, with not much room left for the egg and cheese sauce. I found when I was adding the cheese sauce that it displaced the egg white out of the cup, causing it to spill over the edge of the pan.
I think when I make this again—and I will because we really did love this recipe—I’ll use a Texas-sized muffin pan to ensure all the ingredients stay contained in the cups. Not everyone has ramekins, but I think they’d be preferable to typical-size muffin tins.
These looked as good as they tasted and were so easy to put together. I used Gruyère for the Mornay sauce and realized too late that I only added a 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg—even with my mistake they came out wonderful! The muffins came out of the tin very easily and the crust formed a lovely cup. They’re very rich, so 1 made a perfect serving.
Yes, they’re too cute, and I was so happy to test this because I love watching Little Paris Kitchen. Rachel is just amazing—how she can do all that in her shoebox of a kitchen, whereas we Americans seem to need these big kitchens with 6-burner stoves. (Forget I said that because I want all that, too.) I see all her shows on the Cooking Channel, and for this recipe, she rolled out the bread to half the thickness, which would make them easier to unmold.
I baked mine for 15 minutes, but the eggs were a bit overcooked so I’ll decrease the time when I try this again until I get it runny. The cheese I used was Gruyère. The husband and son really liked them. I’m sure you can probably make these the night before and pop them in the oven in the morning. What a happy little recipe.
This recipe is very easy, and eggceptionally (sorry, I couldn’t resist) tasty. It feeds about 3 people with the 6 “muffins”; if they’re big eaters it may only feed 2. At first, I thought that 1/2 a teaspoon of the freshly ground/grated nutmeg would be too much, but when the sauce is added to everything else it’s just right.
Be sure you have a muffin tin that’s on the larger side or 6-ounce custard cups; I think the author was using a jumbo muffin tin. Once you add the bread and ham into the smaller muffin tin it’s almost completely full. Even with adding only 1/2 the egg whites (all I could find were large eggs), I could only fit 1 tablespoon of the sauce on top, and then they still overflowed onto the cookie sheet I baked them on.
I really liked these cute little “muffins.” In making the Mornay sauce, I found that it thickened rather quickly after I returned the pan to the heat with the whisked milk, mustard, and spices. The recipe called for 10 minutes, but it took me more like 4. Also, I cut back the nutmeg to 1/8 teaspoon because I felt the full 1/2 teaspoon would’ve been too overpowering for my family’s tastes; it was a perfect amount for us.
I subbed in wheat bread because that’s what we eat at our house, and I used a little bottle of vitamins to press the bread into the muffin cups since I didn’t have any narrow glasses. Also, I had a hard time finding “small” eggs, so I just cut back on egg whites as noted; I’d almost enough for a muffin with only whites. My husband and I each had 2 for breakfast, but perhaps 1 would be enough for a light breakfast if served with fruit or other sides. Very easy to put together, and could be quick if the sauce was made ahead of time.
It’s a perfect thing for a nice brunch: very easy to prepare in advance, not too big, and very tasty. Besides that, it’s something a bit unusual that you won’t see every day. The flavors of the egg, ham, and cheese work together perfectly (what a surprise), and the textures with the crusty bread outside and the soft egg/cheese filling are quite pleasant. I highly recommend this dish for brunch or a little lunch with a green salad on the side.
I prepared the muffins the night before (completely assembled and kept them in the fridge). The next morning, I baked them and that worked perfectly. I baked them for 20 minutes, which led to nice crusty bread, but the eggs were hard-cooked as well. I like them more on the soft side, so the next time I’d probably raise the temperature to 390°F and bake for 15 minutes. It was somewhat tricky to get the bread in the muffin pan. The bread slices get very soft after brushing them with the butter and sort of fell apart when I tried to put them into the pan.
In the end, I used my fingers; that worked much better than using a glass. I didn’t need all the egg whites, even though I bought small eggs. I ended up cracking and separating the egg, then putting the yolk on top of the ham and pouring some egg white over it (after I beat the whites with a fork to make them more pliable).
It was the ham and egg with Gruyère sauce that intrigued me about this recipe, and I wasn’t disappointed. The instructions were complete and accurate, and the measurements were also perfect. The recipe produced a nice, elegant meal in under an hour with no complications. All tasters liked the finished product and requested it again.
I thought these were quite good and the cheese sauce was much easier to make than expected. I did use the option of Parmesan instead of Gruyère since I had it on hand and didn’t want to make a trip to the store just to get another cheese. I’m sure they’d be just as delicious with Gruyère and next time I have some on hand I’ll try them that way too. I don’t buy small eggs, though I did have some that were supposed to be large but looked on the small side, so I used those.
I took the muffins out of the oven after 15 minutes and they were almost perfect for my taste. The white was just a little underdone, so I left them baking for 5 more minutes. After the extra 5, there was one spot in the yolk that was a little more cooked than I prefer. I like my white done but yolks very runny. Hubby on the other hand likes his yolks completely done so I cooked his for 25 minutes. I baked these in a silicone muffin pan and they came out perfectly by scooping them with an oversized serving spoon. I think 2 muffins per person is the perfect serving size unless you serve them with fruit; then I think 1 per person would be fine.
Originally published March 28, 2013