You guys, I’m pretty stoked about a plate, and I swear there’s a good reason for it.
If the design rings a bell for you, it’s probably because it’s based on a fairly famous wallpaper print by the company Scalamandre. If you ever went to the New York restaurant Gino’s in Midtown you would have seen the walls covered in this paper because it was specifically designed for this restaurant:
But more likely you may have noticed it lining Margot Tenenbaum’s childhood bedroom in The Royal Tenenbaums:
Ages ago, I got it in my head that I wanted to somehow have this print in our home without having to do any wallpapering, because landlords tend to not look kindly on that sort of thing and wallpapering is a pain in the ass anyway. So I did some sleuthing, and while there were some OK options, they were either unavailable anymore or completely out of my price range.
I put that particular search on hold for a year or so, until a couple of Sundays ago I was browsing Pinterest and someone had pinned a room done in the wallpaper. Well, that ignited my search again and this time, I was able to find a really cool china set that the brand had done with Lennox. The set was still very pricey and largely useless when I only wanted to salad plate, but then Amazon came through for me and let me buy it as open stock. Spending $25 seemed much more reasonable than many, many times that just to buy a minimum two yards’ worth of wallpaper.
When I do a big reorganization of our bookshelves soon, it’s going to live on one shelf next to our small library of plays as a nod to one of my favorite cinematic characters, but I also want to use it as a plate as well, because bloggers need props, obviously. To kick off my epic Sunday cook-a-thon a couple of weeks ago I started by making myself a little brunch. Initially my thought was to make a croque madame as it was a little more brunchy, but given the bread that I picked up at the Wine Source it ended up making the most sense to split it into two and have one small open-face croque monsieur, and one small open-face croque madame. It was the perfect dish to get me through the rest of my cooking–I was totally sated so I wasn’t tempted to take nibbles of cheese save for testing the seasoning amount but not overly so to prevent me from still making myself a nice dinner later that night.
It feels like a bit of a cheat to post a recipe for a croque madame given I did the monsieur a few months ago, but it’s my blog and I’m going to do it anyway.
For the béchamel:
- 1.5 T unsalted butter
- 3 T all-purpose flour
- 1 cup hot milk
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Freshly grated nutmeg
For the sandwich:
- 1/4 baguette, sliced in half (for a more stable base, slice part of the top of the bread to create a flat resting surface)
- 4 oz prosciutto or ham of your choice
- 4 oz grated Gruyère cheese
- 1-2 eggs, depending on your hunger level, each opened into custard cups or ramekins
- 1 glug of white vinegar for the poaching liquid
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and install a rack in the lower third of the oven, and bring a pot of water to boil over the stove and then reduce to medium–high heat.
For the béchamel, melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Whisk in the flour and cook until there is a nice nutty fragrance, about one minute or so. Slowly add the milk (a quick turn in the microwave did a good job of heating this up for me) and whisk, whisk, whisk until the mixture is lump-free. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, increase the heat to medium and then simmer for about five minutes until the sauce has reduced and becomes very rich and creamy, stirring occasionally. When it’s to your desired consistency, reduce the heat to low to keep warm while you assemble the rest of the sandwich.
Line a baking sheet with foil, and place a cooling rack on top and then place your bread halves on the rack. Add the ham, then spoon on a couple of tablespoons of the sauce on each half, and then cover each half with the cheese. Carefully place this in the oven and bake for about 12-15 minutes, or until the cheese melts and is bubbly. When the bread gets closer to being finished (about five minutes out) start prepping and poaching the eggs: add a glug of white vinegar to the poaching liquid, and add the first egg; poach until desired consistency. For me that’s about 3 minutes, but poach longer for a firmer yolk. Drain, carefully dab dry with a tea towel, and place on top of the baguette before serving; repeat with the second egg if desired. Serve immediately.