Saturday, January 9, 2016

Croque Madame of Smoked Turkey and Emmentaler with Szechuan Pepper Kinh Gioi Spread







     A Modern Gourmet French Croque Madame Sandwich!
     I posted a nice Portobello Mushroom Croque Madame recipe a few years ago.  Viewers liked the meatless version of a classic Croque Madame.  It just goes to show that interest in this classic French sandwich can be renewed if a little bit of gourmet influence is applied.
     Very few chefs make Croque Madame sandwiches these days.  Even fewer chefs create new modern recipe versions of the classic Croque Madame.  Items like Gourmet Burgers and Sliders have taken limelight in recent years, but there are a many other traditional sandwiches that could benefit from a facelift too.  
     Three sandwich styles that have been almost totally overlooked by chefs that create modern gourmet street vendor food are the Croque Madame, the Croque Monsieur and the Monte Cristo.  All three of these sandwiches are prime territory for creativity that inspires consumer interest.

     Both the Croque Madame and the Croque Monsieur are considered to be French fast food.  The traditional meat for both of these Croque Sandwiches is ham.  The traditional cheese is Gruyere or Emmentaler.  A Croque Madame is coated with Sauce Béchamel before baking and it is topped with a fried egg.  A Croque Monsieur does not require Béchamel or egg.  Both of these sandwiches can be served for any meal.

     For today's recipe, Smoked Turkey is a nice choice of meat for a creative Croque Madame.  Instead of flavoring the Béchamel Sauce, I added a Kinh Gioi and Szechuan Pepper flavored mayonnaise spread.  Kinh Gioi Herb is also called Vietnamese Balm, Lemon Balm or Lemon Mint.  Lemon Mint adds a nice complimentary flavor.  
     Peppery flavors are nice with smoked turkey, so I chose to add Szechuan Pepper to the sandwich spread.  Szechuan Pepper comes from Prickly Ash trees and it is not really a true peppercorn tree.  Szechuan Pepper has a unique flavor and its oil causes the sensation of taste to become sensitive or slightly distorted.  Szechuan Pepper has an interesting effect on the tongue. 

     Béchamel Sauce:
     This recipe yields a little more than 1 cup.  
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour, while constantly stirring, to make a roux.  (The roux should be shiny and not caky looking.)
     Constantly stir till the roux become a white color, with very little hazelnut aroma.
     Step 2:  Add 1 cup of milk while whisking.
     Add 1/2 cup of cream.
     Stir as the sauce heats and thickens to a very thin sauce consistency.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add thick slice of onion.
     Add 1 spice clove.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 small pinch of nutmeg. 
     Step 4:  Gently simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes a thin sauce consistency that can coat a spoon.
     Step 5:  Pour the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a container.
     Keep the sauce warm on a stove top.

     Szechuan Pepper Kinh Gioi Sandwich Spread:
     This recipe yields a little more than 1/3 cup.  (Enough spread for about 3 to 4 sandwiches.)  
     Step 1:  Place 1/3 cup of mayonnaise in a mixing bowl.
     Add 3 tablespoons of minced Kinh Gioi leaves.  (Vietnamese Lemon Mint)
     Add 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground Szechuan Peppercorns.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt.
     Step 2:  Use a blending wand or food processor to puree the ingredients.
     Place Chill the Szechuan Pepper Kinh Gioi Sandwich Spread in a container and chill till it is needed. 

     Croque Madame of Smoked Turkey and Emmentaler with Szechuan Pepper Kinh Gioi Spread:
     This recipe yields 1 sandwich.
     Step 1:  Cut 2 slices of French Boule Loaf Bread.
     Spread a thin layer of the Szechuan Pepper Kinh Gioi Mayonnaise on both slices of bread.
     Step 2:  Place 3 or 4 thin slices of Emmentaler (Swiss cheese) on both sandwich halves.
     Place 3 ounces of thin sliced smoked turkey on one half of the sandwich.  (Sliced smoked turkey breast from a delicatessen is fine for this recipe.)
     Step 3:  Place the 2 sandwich halves together.
     Place the sandwich on a baking pan that is brushed with melted butter.
     Spread a thin layer of Béchamel Sauce on the top of the sandwich.  (About 2 tablespoons.)
     Sprinkle 1 1/2 tablespoons of grated Emmentaler Cheese over the Béchamel.
     Step 4:  Bake the sandwich in a 350ºF oven till it is toasted crispy golden brown.  (The bread should be toasted crunchy crisp!)   
     Shortly before the sandwich is done baking, cook 1 sunny side up fried egg in a non-stick sauté pan with unsalted butter over medium low heat.
     Step 5:  Place the sandwich on a plate.
     Place the fried egg on top of the sandwich.
     Garnish the plate with sweet gherkin pickles and an Italian Parsley sprig.

     A Croque Madame is a knife and fork style of sandwich.  As far as creative Croque Madame Sandwiches are concerned, the flavor of this sandwich is a winner!  

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