It’s been a while since I posted a brunch recipe. Figured I should fix that. To be honest, in this era of flexible routines and ambiguous WFH schedules, breakfast foods have fallen to the wayside. What has replaced them is low and slow, simmer-all-day affairs, and generally, I’m not mad about it. But I do love breakfast foods and this past week I felt a void that could only be filled by a plate of fried eggs. It was my over-active brain that chose to complicate things. It turned that simple craving for eggs into this show-stopping, cheese-heavy brunch – the Croque Madame Dutch Baby.
This dish looks impressive, doesn’t it? Involved, detailed, and time-consuming? No, it is none of those things. A dutch baby looks impressive but really it’s a blender-mixed batter poured into a hot cast-iron skillet and baked until it looks cool. A dutch baby is a low-maintenance centerpiece that you dress up and down any way you like. Now, this Croque Madame Dutch Baby does require you to whip up a bechamel, but thankfully, this isn’t an egg benedict situation.
Eggs benedict perfectly illustrates why brunch can be a surprisingly complicated meal to pull off. First of all, you have eggs, poached no less. Eggs are delicate and their consistency can change wildly based on their cook time. And then you have hollandaise, a sauce notorious for breaking and clotting when cooled. The English muffin is prone to sogginess if it’s not perfectly toasted or the poached eggs are not sufficiently drained. Oh and the poached egg – not only do you have to cook it properly, but you also have to get it to the plate while it’s still hot. Ditto for the English muffin, the bacon or ham you’re adding, and the hollandaise. All of these components have different cook times, so basically egg benedict is a time-management nightmare.
But, as I said, this Croque Madame Dutch Baby is not eggs benedict. You can make the bechamel while the dutch baby is doing its thing in the oven. And if you finish the sauce before the dutch baby is ready, NBD. You’re going to pour the bechamel into the dutch baby and pop it right back into the oven, so everything will have a chance to get up to temperature together. But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. Maybe if we explore what a Croque Madame actually is, this process will make more sense.
A Croque Madame is a decadent sandwich filled with ham, gruyere, and Dijon mustard cooked up like a grilled cheese. The sandwich is then topped with a creamy bechamel and covered with yet more cheese before being broiled. At this point in the game, you have a Croque monsieur. What turns a monsieur into a madame? The addition of a fried egg – you know, the craving that got me into this mess.
Apparently, the Croque madame is feminized because the egg resembles a ladies’ wide-brim hat. Somewhere along the way, I got it into my head that the sandwich got its name because the egg resembles a breast. I’m not sure where that came from because I haven’t found any evidence suggesting that this theory is correct. But wherever and whenever I heard it, my brain fully accepted it… I’m not sure what that says about me. Who knows? Maybe it is true.
Enough about the sandwich, let’s talk about the dutch baby. So in order to recreate the Croque Madame experience in the middle of a dutch baby, you first have to make a dutch baby. As I said before, this is a deceptively simple process. And while your dutch baby is doming in the oven, you whip up a bechamel with some shaved ham on standby. Now, Croque Madames typically have ham, gruyere, and Dijon mustard inside of them, so I added the gruyere and Dijon mustard to the bechamel, which technically makes it a Mornay sauce, but whatever.
Once your dutch baby has created a gloriously golden bowl, you simply fill it with shaved ham and positively drown it with the bechamel/mornay sauce. Then, of course, you cover the sauce with more gruyere. Then pop the baby back into the oven until the cheese gets melty. It’s doubtful you’ll be able to leave it in the oven until the cheese gets bubbly. The edges of your dutch baby will likely overcook before it gets there. So just getting the cheese to a melty place is good enough in my books. If the lack of golden bubbliness really bothers you, feel free to take a kitchen torch to it.
Finally, top the beast with a couple of fried eggs and call it a day. I opted to add tomatoes, avocado, and pea shoots because it’s all about balance. I’m just kidding! Adding veggies to this cheesy, porky affair is like attempting to put out a fire with a water gun. We’re indulging here people – get into it!
So that’s everything you need to know about this Croque Madame Dutch Baby. This is family brunch at its most decadent, so check your diets at the door. Cheese, ham, fried eggs, and one giant pancake – who could ask for anything more?
Croque Madame Dutch Baby
- Large Cast Iron Skillet
Chive Dutch Baby
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter divided
- 4 large eggs
- ⅔ cup milk I used 2%
- ⅔ cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup fresh chives finely chopped
- ½ tsp salt
Gruyere Mornay Sauce
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1½ tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 cup milk I used 2%
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard heaping
- ¾ cup gruyere shredded
- 8-12 slices shaved ham
- ⅓ cup gruyere shredded
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup grape tomatoes halved
- 1 avocado sliced
- ½ cup pea shoots
For the Dutch Baby
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Place 2 tbsp of the butter in a small dish and place it in the microwave. Heat in 15 second bursts until melted. Set aside to cool slightly.
- Place the eggs, milk, flour, chives, salt, and melted butter in a blender or large food processor. Blend until smooth and free of lumps. Set aside.
- Place the remaining butter in the center of a large cast-iron skillet. Once the oven is up to temperature, place the skillet inside and let heat for 5 minutes. Remove the skillet from the oven and swirl the pan to ensure it is evenly coated with the now melted butter.
- Pour the batter into the skillet and immediately return to the oven. Bake the dutch baby for 15 minutes. Do not open the oven during this time.
For the Mornay Sauce
- While the dutch baby is baking, make the mornay sauce. Place the butter in a small saucepan and place over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, whisk in the flour to form a roux. Gradually whisk in the milk and stir in the Dijon mustard. Bring the sauce up to a gentle simmer.
- Once the sauce is simmering, take it off of the heat and add the cheese. Stir the sauce until the cheese has melted. Taste and season with salt accordingly. Set aside.
- Take the puffed dutch baby out of the oven and place the ham in the center. Pour the mornay sauce over the ham and sprinkle with the gruyere cheese. Return the dutch baby to the oven and bake for 5-10 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the sauce is bubbling. **
- While the dutch baby is in the oven for the second time, fry the eggs sunny-side up in a non-stick frying pan.
- Take the dutch baby out of the oven and top with the fried eggs, avocado, tomatoes, and pea shoots. Serve immediately with your caffeinated beverage of choice.