This is a heavenly, decadent, big, fork and knife sandwich.

For the last year or so they have been serving a version of it at the Zodiac Room at the Northpark Neimans, qualifying it as the very best mall food I have ever eaten. And, I know the restaurant has a new name but I have boycotted the new name. But, I still love the place.

Lily and I dropped in for lunch on a no-school day recently and, to my sadness, I found that my beloved and naughty Croque Madame had been unceremoniously ripped from my life. New menu. I say naughty because, in case the pictures haven’t tipped you off, it is full of cheese, cheese sauce, ham, and has a big fried egg on top. I don’t know who decided it was a “Madame” because it is a decidedly masculine affair.

It is slightly time consuming for a sandwich but trust me when I say that you will be glad you made the effort. It is one of my favorite meals.

The Bread: I used a loaf I found at my local grocer called English Toasting Bread. I don’t know what that really means other than it was a nice, dense, soft bread. If all else fails, I suppose regular white bread would do. I don’t recommend a grainy wheat bread, but I can’t exactly say why. Go for something white and dense…a few steps up the ladder from your kid’s sandwich bread.

The Ham: I used Black Forest Smoked Ham. The smoky flavor was nice. I think a sweet ham would  not have the same impact. Get the ham out of the refrigerator as you start so that it can come to room temperature.

The Cheese: Gruyere is traditional here, I think. I, however, used an aged white cheddar because….that is what I had in the fridge. It was wonderful. If you deviate, again, choose something white. Swiss would probably work great, too.

Mustard: I chose a whole grain Dijon mustard. Plain Dijon is probably more traditional. But you only want to use a hint of it. It is not so much a condiment here as just an aspect of the flavor profile. And by that I mean that your guest will probably not know there is mustard in it; rather, they will be left wondering what that interesting hint of a flavor is.

The Cheese Sauce: This is simply a basic butter and flour roux with milk stirred in, and shredded white cheddar cheese, salt and pepper added in right at the end. A dash of nutmeg is common, but I chose not to use it.

Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
  • 8 slices of good quality white bread
  • 4 teaspoons (approximately) Dijon mustard
  • ½ pound smoked ham, thinly sliced (approximately…use the amount that looks right)
  • ¾ cup shredded white aged Cheddar cheese (or Gruyere or Swiss)
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter (divided use)
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • dash of salt and pepper
  • 4 large eggs
To Make the Sauce
  1. Melt 3 Tablespoons of butter in a saucepan. Add 3 Tablespoons of flour and mix it in thoroughly with a whisk. Continue to whisk and cook the roux for 3 minutes. Add the milk, whisking constantly and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, whisking periodically.
  2. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add ½ cup (or more) of shredded aged white cheddar cheese. Add salt and pepper and stir until the cheese is melted and combined. Set aside. This sauce will get a “skin” if left unattended. I didn’t care because I just scooped some up and broiled it anyway. But if you are going for sauce perfection, you can lay a piece of wax paper directly on the surface of the sauce.
For the sandwiches
  1. For each sandwich, apply about a teaspoon of mustard on one side of the bread. Pile the ham on top of the mustard. On the other piece of bread, spoon about 1 to 2 Tablespoon of the cheese sauce and spread it evenly. Add about 1 Tablespoon of shredded aged white cheddar cheese on top of the sauce and close the sandwich. Repeat for each of the sandwiches.
  2. Preheat the broiler.
  3. Melt 2 Tablespoons of butter on a non stick griddle pan. Place the sandwiches and cook them until the bottom side is golden brown, and then carefully turn them over and cook them on the other side, as well. Remove the sandwiches to a shallow baking dish.
  4. Spoon about ⅓ cup of the sauce on each of the sandwiches. It is fine if it goes over the sides a little. Place the dish under the broiler for approximately 2 minutes, or until the sauce is browned and bubbly. Watch this step closely because it goes from perfect to ruined in about 10 seconds. Turn off the broiler and let the baking dish stay warm by leaving it on a rack in the bottom of the oven. Should you burn the tops (as I did the first time) you can gently scoop off the burnt bit and broil them again for a mere moment.
  5. Meanwhile, clean the griddle pan with a paper towel and melt the remaining 1 Tablespoon of butter. Fry 4 eggs until the whites are cooked and the egg is just sunny side up perfection. Remove the baking dish from the oven and place one sandwich on each plate using a spatula. Then carefully place one egg on top of each sandwich, taking care not to break the yolk. Eat immediately.

NOTE: I suspect I’m morally obligated to say that undercooked eggs can be bad for you. But that is the way that they ought to be for this dish. So there. I adapted this sandwich from a recipe that appeared in the March 2007 issue of Gourmet…which I found on Epicurious…a very useful website.

You are going to love this.


  1. Kelly says

    Let us know what type of cheese you use. I have a friend who is slightly curious about my choice of white cheddar opting instead for the traditional gruyere. Enjoy!!

  2. says

    Kelly, don’t despair, we can still go to the Neiman’s Zodiac Room downtown and it’s still on the menu!!! However, I can just come over for your version which looks incredible!!!

  3. says

    Ooooh I’d love to try one. They just look so good. But it is a lot of prep and I don’t think I’ve ever seen it on a menu. I’ll just have to keep my eye out for it!

  4. Kelly says

    Linda, you have restored my faith in the NM family of stores. So glad to hear it hasn’t disappeared entirely. BTW, Lily is trying to track you down for a girl scout cookie sales pitch…beware, Thin Mints cometh.

  5. Kelly says

    Amanda, you are right. It is a lot of fuss for a sandwich. But, wow, is it good. Pencil it in for a lazy late morning when you have nowhere to be and plan to spend some time lolling in the kitchen.

  6. Courtney says

    Your description of this sandwich is completely accurate. We made it for dinner and it is heavenly. We also used white cheddar which was perfect. It worked well as a two chef meal. Dividing up tasks made the process less complicated. We will be making this again! If it were up to my kids, we would be having it for breakfast tomorrow.

  7. Darryl says

    Wow! Most excellent sandwich! It’s almost too fancy for that title, though. Family and I are very pleased with the outcome. Cheese sauce came together just as instructed. Tonight we made the sauce with Gruyère, but had to substitute a good medium cheddar for the sandwich. The mustard we had on hand was rather more rustic than your Dijon, but it was indeed the perfect accompaniment for the smoky ham and cheese. We definitely regret attempting to choose a better diet plan in the face of this sandwich.

    @Courtney – I really like the idea of splitting tasks for this recipe.

  8. Steve says

    just made these this morning following your recipe – delicious!

    I had to make one deviation and used muffins instead of white bread but turned out pretty pleasing to the stomach. Cheers for the recipe!

  9. Renaud Barry says

    Bonjour from Paris, France !!!
    I must say that your Croque Madame Recipe is beautiful. The cheese sauce is called, in french, “Béchamel” that you can cook with or without cheese. But to be absolutely delicious and perfect, you have to add one little spoon of nutmeg powder in, with the pepper and the salt ;-).
    You can use Béchamel with Croque Monsieur/Madame, but also with Lasagna, Moussaka, Chicories with ham (a french recipe i’m sure you’ve heard about if you like “french cuisine”) and Croissant au Jambon (a croissant with ham, bechamel and cheese inside… mmmmmm), etc, etc…

    Your website is very nice !!! Thanks a lot!

  10. Renaud Barry says

    I apologize for my poor english. I was not a good student and i must say i’ve learnt english trying to translate lyrics of my favourite rock bands…

    But if you like some good and special recipes from Paris, 18th quarter (mine lol), just ask for it, i’ll do my best. You’ve now got my email.

  11. Kelly says

    I absolutely love lasagna with béchamel sauce. It is one of my favorite dishes of all time. Thank you for the comment. You have listed some of my favorite things and I’m quite hungry all of a sudden. Have a lovely day.


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