I have really enjoyed the series on TV by Rachel Khoo and have been dying to have a go at the Croque Madame Muffins she baked in the first programme. We love Croque Monsieur and Madame (which is the same thing with an egg on top) and often choose them from the menu when we are in France. It’s always a real joy when we are served ones made from scratch rather than reheated frozen ones.
When Nick was working from home one day I decided I would treat us to the muffins for lunch instead of the usual sandwiches or beans on toast. I bought a white sliced loaf specially for them. I even made the béchamel sauce properly instead of using my standard Delia Smith all-in-one method (which you can see here).
The muffins were actually quite fiddly to make. I added to the work by using a small pack of lardons that we had brought from France after Easter instead of ham. So I had to fry the lardons as well as making the sauce and preparing the bread.
My bread was quite springy so I ended up flattening it with the rolling pin twice, once before brushing both sides with melted butter and again afterwards. I employed Rachel’s tip from the programme to tip out some of the egg white before putting them in the muffins to make sure there was room for the sauce.
I was pleased with how the muffins looked when I had sprinkled them with cheese and was really looking forward to eating one – they looked as though they would be well worth the effort. Then disaster struck.
Unbelievably, as I put the muffin tray into the oven I somehow caught it on the shelf and it fell out of my hands, landing upside down on the oven door !!
I have no idea what I said but it must have been loud as within a few seconds Nick and the dog were both in the kitchen to see what had happened. As I stared at the upside down muffin tray in total disbelief, egg yolk and cheese sauce started to ooze out around it. Nick employed some quick thinking and went into International Rescue mode. He grabbed two baking sheets, slid one of them under the muffin tin, held the other on top and turned the whole thing back the right way up so we could inspect the damage.
It was not a pretty sight. There was no way the muffins could be reconstructed from the jumbled mess of eggs, sauce and bread. So, while Nick cleaned the oven door, I just shovelled the lot into a roasting tin and then put it back into the oven to bake. (It’s a good job the oven door opens at the bottom, otherwise the whole lot would have ended up on the kitchen floor !!)
When the eggs were cooked and the bread crispy, I served up spoonful's of the croque traybake with a simple salad as planned. It was absolutely delicious and we ate the lot. Apart from the bits that remained stuck to the tin and were left for Lulu to enjoy.
I wondered if this was how the Tatin sisters felt when they first made their famous dessert, or the inventors of Eton mess and the Bakewell pudding – would my culinary disaster become a classic dish of the future?
I think not !! I shall definitely have another go at the muffins very soon as all the signs are they should be quite yummy – and next time I shall make a special effort to keep them the right way up !!
If you would like to see how to make them properly, here’s the correct method as demonstrated by Rachel herself.