Croque Madame and Cotton Candy Grapes
Walk into a French café and you might discover a dish called Croque Monsieur, which translates as “Mr. Crunch”. Add a sunny-side up egg on top and it becomes a Croque Madame, or “Mrs. Crunch”, the gender shift occurring because the egg resembles the sort of hat women would frequently wear in a by-gone era. Croque Monsieur and Croque Madame can range from the easy and convenient to the rich and decadent depending on the money, time, and calories you are willing to sacrifice.
Over the past few weeks, Aaron decided he wanted to try his hand at making a Croque Madame recipe after adapting various elements from several sources. The way he envisioned it: two slices of high-quality Swiss cheese and black forest ham sandwiched between thick slices of rustic French bread with a bit of Dijon mustard and a classic homemade Béchamel sauce (butter, flour, milk, nutmeg, salt, and pepper). He initially cooked it like a classic grilled cheese, with butter in the frying pan. After the bread was toasted on both sides, he topped the sandwich with another serving of Béchamel sauce and Gruyère cheese. He then put it under the broiler in the oven to melt and caramelize the cheese. Finally, he took it out of the oven and then topped the sandwiches with the Sunny Side-Up eggs he had cooked in a frying pan.
The results were incredible and certainly every bit as indulgent as they sound. I was in my office working on writing a private client letter, where I had been since a little after 5 a.m., when I was called to the kitchen to help him plate the final product and move them to the outdoor eating area.
For those of you thinking about making something similar at home, the final nutritional tally per sandwich: 1,085 calories. Aaron mentioned that he could have gone even further. Some people enrich the Béchamel sauce into what is known as a Mornay sauce, which includes adding Gruyère and parmesan to it (Mornay is often the base of top-quality homemade macaroni and cheese recipes). Had he done so, we would have needed to add a couple hundred more calories to this total.
It’s a recipe we’ll probably make several times a year – as Aaron mentioned, it’d be particularly good around Christmas.
We also paired them with something we have been waiting on for almost a year: yesterday, we finally got our hands on the famous California organic cotton candy grapes we had read so much about! They are incredible and deserve their reputation! They are produced by a farm called Divine Flavor and are sold during May and June. The genes of the grape vines were modified over time so that when you put one in your mouth and it bursts, it tastes like an explosion of the sugar from cotton candy. I started laughing like a little kid I was so taken aback by the sweetness. Aaron looked at me and said, “I feel like these are candy … like they’re not good for me and I shouldn’t be eating them.” They’re that delicious.
Science is amazing. If you live on the West Coast, pick some up today before they are all gone for the year. Taking that first bite is surreal. Here in Newport Beach, you can get them at Gelson’s. Otherwise, I know some other vineyards also sell them and you can get them in other states – e.g., if you go to the Grapery website, you might be able to find a local area but I haven’t tried that specific grower so I couldn’t say how they compare to the ones we tried.
I have to get back to work now. Even though I’ve already put in four hours before the firm opened, today, we have several accounts we need to build our for clients, I have an analyst report on one specific company I want to read to compare my thoughts to those of Wall Street and see if there is any major deviation, some research I want to do involving the commercial loan books of several regional banks, and I think we are going to begin approving the batch of private client statements for the quarter that just ended, possibly publishing them in the next 24 to 48 hours to the private client portal. It feels strange to not be working on my Surface Studio system but we have a company iMac I can use for now as well as several MacBook notebooks if necessary. I’m not sure what I want to do on the technology front. I can’t find any PC monitor that is as good as the display on the Surface Studio, which is frustrating.