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Croque Madame

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Boeuf bourguignon, champagne, coq au vin, fondue, ham and cheese?
Is it strange that I go to a place famous for exquisite cuisine in search of a mere ham and cheese sandwich? Possibly... but oh, I have deep feelings about these particular ham and cheese sandwiches.

Walk with me down any busy street in Paris. Carefully avoid slipping on the poodle dropping, sidestep the fast talking tourist trappers, and duck into a dark brasserie with me. Sure, it's smoky, but if it wasn't smoky, it wouldn't be Paris, now would it? Sit at the bar and join me in saying "Bonjour Monsieur" to the bartender... "Je voudrais un croque madame, s'il vous plaît".

Let's work on a pint of Stella Artois or Kronenbourg while we are waiting for our sandwiches to be cooked... it doesn't take all that long. Just as we finish our beers, the bartender brings us silverware, salt and pepper shakers, a small container of mustard, and a serviette... and lastly, the plate with a golden square of gruyère-filled goodness accompanied by a curt "bon appetit". Dab a little mustard on the side of the plate, sprinkle a bit of pepper, order another beer, and we begin to dissect our specimens with the knife and fork.

We reverse engineer the croque madame as we eat... the bread is sliced and square... rarely do we find bread in Paris that isn't in baguette form. The bread is coated on both sides with shredded gruyère, an excellent choice of cheese for this meal, as it melts very well. We cut into the bread and notice a satisfying crunchiness around the fringes. Between the bread and the cheese, we find jambon... no, this isn't any old ham, this is jambon, sliced incredibly thin, and flavored unlike anything available in our country of origin. An egg is erched atop this masterpiece... all of the white is set, and the center yolk is liquid... a near-perfect replica of a typical American "sunny side up".

The appeal of the croque madame is so strong, that even after 16 months of being a vegetarian, I am determined to order one shortly after my arrival in Paris next week. Yes, of all the available dining options in France, this simple and decidedly common ham sandwich calls to me more than any other.
Created by donetrawk
Last modified 2004-10-15 06:35 PM

Thank you for the stroll.

Posted by abbyp at 2004-10-18 01:17 AM
Thank you, Mike, for that stroll down a memorable Paris lane. In fact, this single croque madame story takes me down several memory threads. My Parisian pedestrian street the Rue Clere, an old boyfriend, my own discovery of what magic the French can do with jambon et gruyere not to mention du beurre!, a three week trek about Europe, a brunch et al. You've made me all nostalgic, as if I needed any help in that direction. Here's to good meals and the memories tied to them, be they jambon et beurre and a can of Kronenburg on the steps of the Orsay, a croque madam at a Parisian brasserie, or a burrito in Bexley.
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