Three beautiful eggs – that is what I found on Monday morning. We have been waiting and waiting (and waiting) for our hens to lay and were starting to feel as though they never would. Last Thursday, Justin put a golf ball in the nesting box to try to encourage them, and it must have worked! When I opened up the coop on Monday, my facial expression was probably that of a little girl who just found out her parents bought her a pony. It was so exciting.
It’s like magic,” Justin said with a huge grin.
There they were, a little gift from our feathered friends. Small, perfectly oblong and the prettiest pinkish brown I’ve ever seen. I felt so proud you would have thought I had laid them myself. I immediately called Justin at work, “GUESS WHAT?! The bitches laid eggs!” (By the way, that is a term of endearment in our house.) Later that night, Justin checked the nest box again and found another egg. He tapped on my office window, “It’s like magic,” he said with a huge grin.
If you don’t wash the eggs, they keep for up to 2 months on the counter. I purchased a little hen shaped wire basket from World Market, which makes for a handy way to collect the eggs, as well as a cute way to display them in the kitchen. On Tuesday morning it was so nice to pluck an egg from the basket and make myself a simple little breakfast.
We of course had to eat the eggs on Monday night to celebrate. So, I made Croque-Madame for supper. We first had it when we were in Paris, and I enjoyed it again last weekend at Bastille in Ballard, WA. Croque-Madame is Croque-Moussier with an egg on top. I have made healthier versions of this baked sandwich in the past, but tonight called for the authentic dish… Gruyere cream sauce and all. This dish is fairly simple and has few ingredients, so I wanted to splurge on quality ones – if nothing else to do the fresh egg justice. Sage and I scurried to Whole Foods and I picked out a loaf of Pain Au Levain which is a chewy French country bread. I also picked up a nice chunk of aged Gruyere and an organic, local ham steak.
Recipe adapted from Epicurious
Makes 4 servings
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3 1/2 ounces coarsely grated Gruyère cheese (1 1/3 cups)
8 slices firm white sandwich bread
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 pound thinly sliced cooked ham (preferably Black Forest)
4 large eggs
Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a 1- to 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, then whisk in flour and cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes. Whisk in milk and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 5 minutes. Whisk in salt, pepper, nutmeg, and 1/3 cup cheese until cheese is melted. Remove from heat and cover surface directly with a sheet of wax paper.
Spread 1 1/2 tablespoons sauce evenly over each of 4 slices of bread, then sprinkle evenly with remaining cheese (1/4 cup per slice). Spread mustard evenly on remaining 4 bread slices and top with ham, dividing it evenly, then invert onto cheese-topped bread to form sandwiches.
Lightly oil a 15- by 10-inch shallow baking pan.
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately low heat, then cook sandwiches, turning over once, until golden, 3 to 4 minutes total. Remove from heat and transfer sandwiches to baking pan, then wipe out skillet with paper towels.
Top each sandwich with 1/3 cup sauce, spreading evenly. Broil sandwiches 4 to 5 inches from heat until sauce is bubbling and golden in spots, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn off broiler and transfer pan to lower third of oven to keep sandwiches warm.
Heat remaining tablespoon butter in nonstick skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides, then crack eggs into skillet and season with salt and pepper. Fry eggs, covered, until whites are just set and yolks are still runny, about 3 minutes. Top each sandwich with a fried egg and serve immediately.