A Croque-Madame, Greek-style!
This recipe draws its inspiration from the classic French sandwich called croque madame, itself a variation of the croque monsieur. Their name is based on the French verb croquer, which means “to bite” or “to crunch”. And happy eaters have been biting and crunching for a long time; the croque monsieur was first served in Paris in 1910 and it’s earliest mention in literature is seemingly in volume two of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time in 1918.
The popularity and longevity of the croque monsieur is not surprising when you consider what goes into making one; bread, ham, cheese and butter are a combination which is hard to resist. In the 1960’s someone had the bright idea to top this already incredible sandwich with a fried egg, and the croque madame was born. Madame means “lady” in French, and food lore has it that the croque madame was so named because the fried egg looks like an old fashioned woman’s hat.
Although there are some basic components of a croque madame, like bread, cheese, ham and an egg, there are certainly variations. Some recipes call for a béchamel sauce, some use a sweet bread, and others dip the bread in egg. Here we have given the croque madame a Greek twist, using rye bread, jambon (the Greek way of saying ham), kefalotyri cheese, mizithra, and frying our egg in olive oil. And so, the French croque madame becomes a Greek croque kyria, (because the Greek word for lady is kyria) and we’re pretty proud of the result.
The sandwich directly links back to some of our previous posts. We’ve already told you about frying eggs in olive oil, and if you would like to read up on that again in more detail, you can find the link here. Also, you’ll notice that there is no béchamel sauce on top of this sandwich. Instead, a crispy, cheesy crust is created by using mayonnaise and mizithra, similar to the trick we used to make one of our most popular recipes, tsoureki and feta grilled cheese!
It is so much easier to assemble this sandwich in the frying pan as you are cooking it than to try to transfer it already assembled. Just follow the directions in the recipe, and be careful as you will be moving things into a hot pan.
The Kefalotyri cheese used in this recipe is part of what makes it so special, and Greek. Kefalotyri (or kefalotiri) is a hard, salty cheese made from either sheep’s or goat’s milk (or sometimes both). This cheese has a dry and crumbly texture and along with being salty, its flavour is sharp, strong and a little tangy. If you can’t find Kefalotyri, you can use Kefalograviera instead (although we imagine that if you can’t find one, you probably won’t be able to find the other either). Alternatively, although harder and saltier, Kefalotyri does taste somewhat similar to Gruyere, which may be easier to find.
Also, if you cannot find mizithra, you can substitute equal amounts of grated parmesan and romano cheese. The flavour won’t be the same, but it will be close-ish.
Mia Kouppa: Croque Kyria
- 2 slices rye bread
- 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon mizithra (or grated parmesan or grated Romano cheese)
- 3 – 4 slices smoked ham or jambon
- 1/4 cup grated kefalotyri cheese
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- pepper to taste
- Additional mizithra cheese for sprinkling on top of egg
- Preheat your oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Slather one side of each of the pieces of rye bread with mayonnaise. Divide the mizithra cheese in two and sprinkle each half on top of the mayonnaise. Use your hands to gently pat the mizithra into place (the mayonnaise will help it “stick”).
- Melt the butter in a small frying pan and once melted, place one slice of the bread into the pan, mayonnaise and mizithra cheese side down. Lay the ham onto the bread and then top with the grated kefalotiri. Place the second piece of bread over the kefalotiri, mayonnaise and mizithra side up.
- Cook your sandwich while occasionally pressing down with the back of a spatula. Gently flip the sandwich over, and cook until both sides are a golden brown.
- Transfer your sandwich to a baking tray and place in the middle rack of your oven to keep warm while you fry your egg.
- Wipe your frying pan clean and then heat up your olive oil. When the oil is hot, crack the egg into a bowl and slip it into the hot oil. Fry your egg until it is crispy around the edges. While it is cooking, use a spoon to pour some of the hot olive oil over the yolk, to help it to cook on the outside. Watch video here.
- Remove your sandwich from the oven and place it onto your plate. Transfer the fried egg onto your sandwich. Season with pepper and sprinkle with additional mizithra cheese. Eat immediately. Enjoy!