Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Little Paris Kitchen - Croque Madame Muffins

Thanks to my friend Ken in San Diego, I have a new favorite show on the Cooking Channel.  Rachel Khoo lives in a tiny flat in the Belleville district and turned her living room into the smallest restaurant in Paris.  She may only be able to seat 2 people at a time in her 21 square meter studio (that's 69 square feet) but she makes good use of her 2 burner "Coleman stove" and mini-convection oven.  I was terribly impressed as I watched her take on Boeuf Bourguignon.

I really get a kick out of what her kitchen looks like.  In many ways it reminds me of the kitchen in my last San Diego apartment.  In that respect, we are like kindred spirits.  Granted, I had a full sized refrigerator and a full sized range, unlike Rachel, but I think she has more actual counter space than I did.  All her pots and equipment hang from the wall, just like mine use to.  When you have no horizontal space, it's time to go vertical baby.  Luckily, my tiny kitchen had 9 1/2 ft ceilings, so there was a lot of vertical space to be had.  :)  If it hadn't been for the long florescent light fixture, I would have hung things from the ceiling on hooks too. 

Anyway, I really like some of the things I have seen from her so far, such as her method with Oeufs en Cocotte (eggs in pots), in which she replaces the Heavy Cream with Crème Fraîche and then tops the whole thing with Salmon Caviar (oh yeah!), and her Spring Lamb Stew with Mint sauce.  I don't mean like that awful mint jelly sauce either.  Her rendition is made with minced fresh mint.  Sounds delish to me.  The Molten Chocolate Cakes spiked with Salt Caramel made me laugh though, because I have been kicking that idea around in my head for the last couple of weeks, and then BAM!, there it is on her show.

But the one thing that REALLY caught my eye, of the 2 episodes I have seen so far, was her Croque Madame transformed into a muffin.  I know, right?  It's just plain crazy!  The famous sandwich gone rogue.  Now I must say, that when I saw her pull out the white bread, I cringed.  I simply cannot do white bread.  It's like gummy flavorless nastiness.  After I decided that I needed to try her recipe, I went to the store and attempted to make myself buy white bread.   Nope, I just couldn't do it.... I came close though.  I bought a nice loaf of the whole grain white wheat that had become so popular in the last few years.  At least it has a little more flavor and SOME nutritional value.  :)  The problem is, that flatter loaves like sour dough, rye and french won't really work.  In order to line the muffing tin properly you really need the square bread, and only mass produced non-french type breads come that way.  Think Franz, Wonder and Roman Meal.

I have made this twice so far... Yes, I saw the recipe on Friday and I made it both Saturday and Monday mornings for breakfast.  It really is THAT delicious.  But I have made a cheese change.  While a Croque Madame sandwich would normally be laced with Gruyere or Emmental, I have opted for Fontina.  I think it gives the Béchamel a little more zing and melts a little smoother than the other two.  Mind you, I am speaking of the more commonly available Danish Fontina (in the red or yellow wax) not the original Italian variety (Fontina val d'Aosta in the brown wax); though it would probably be even better. 

But enough jabber from me, breakfast isn't going to make itself.

Croque Madame Muffins

Adapted from Rachel Khoo

6 slices Whole Grain White Wheat Bread, crust removed
4 TB Unsalted Butter, melted
2 slices Deli Ham
6 medium Eggs (if using large eggs, you will have to loose some of the white)
1 TB Unsalted Butter
1 TB AP Flour
3/4 cup (200ml) Whole Milk
Pinch of Salt
Pinch of White Pepper
Pinch of Nutmeg
1 oz (30g) Fontina Cheese, grated - divided

First you must trim the crust from the squishy bread.

Take a rolling pin and squish them down to about half their original thickness.

Brush both sides of the bread with melted butter. (you should have a little left over)

Fit each piece into the holes of a muffin tin.

OK, now it's time to make Béchamel really quick, cause it will need to cool slightly.
So, place 1 TB Butter in a sauce pan set over medium flame, then add the flour and whisk until bubbly and slightly nutty smelling.

Add the milk and whisk until it begins to thicken.

Add Salt, Pepper and Nutmeg and cook 1 minute longer to ensure it is thick enough.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in half of the Fontina cheese (save the rest to top the muffins with)

Once the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth, set aside and begin preheating the oven to 350F (175C) degrees.
Place little bits of ham in the bottom of each cup.

Now crack a medium sized egg into each cup.  (if you are using large eggs, you will need to remove some of the white)

Spoon about 2 TB of Béchamel over each egg.

Sprinkle with remaining cheese, and brush the edges of the bread with any of the remaining butter.

Bake for 15 minutes for runny yolks or 20 minutes for "set" yolks.

Then remove from the pan with a small offset spatula, and dig into some creamy golden deliciousness.

Now THAT is how I like to start my morning.


1 comment:

Patricia Taylor said...

I keep seeing variations of this recipe all over the place. I really must try this, especially when we have overnight guests. Thanks for more inspiration.