From 2008 to 2016, I had a stall from the very first Eveleigh Street Market in Sydney, at what later came to be known as Carriageworks Farmers Market.
My stall was called Bird Cow Fish, Breakfast & Stuff. I cooked and sold a large range of pastry and breakfast goods to feed the hungry shoppers and where possible sourced all of my ingredients for these from my neighbouring stallholders.
Fruits would be purchased each week and then poached for the next weekend’s tarts. Vegetables and herbs would be quickly purchased on the Saturday morning before we opened, washed and prepared ready to add to our omelettes (Oh My Goshlettes).
One of my most popular breakfast items was my Crooked Madame, a variation of the croque monsieur.
According to Bee Wilson in her book Sandwich, A Global History, this French snack bar food originated in the early 20th Century. The name ‘Croque Monsieur’ comes from croquer which means to crunch and Monsieur meaning Sir. The ‘Croque Madame’ has the addition of an egg (or two), for seemingly biological reasons or though some say its because it looks like a woman’s hat. As always, the deeper you dig the more and varied accounts you find.
My Crooked Madame came to have many variations depending upon our customers’ desires. Initially, for the Crooked Madame, I replaced the traditional bechamel sauce with either Dijon mustard or my own BBQ sauce.
Then we had customers asking for both and this became known as ‘The Slut’.
There were those, however, who wanted neither mustard or sauce. That was OK too; these were known as a naked sandwich or a ‘Nude’.
And then there were those who wanted just a bit of this and none of that. So to avoid losing their special sandwiches on the grill, we would place a fork on them so we could easily locate them. These, quite simply, were called ‘The Forkin’ Sandwiches’.
Finally there were the ‘No Ham’ sandwiches, mostly only ordered by one customer called Renata, so these became known as ‘The Renata’.
Image Credit: Caroline McCredie
Croque Madam / Crooked Madam
- Sandwich Press or Large Frypan
- 4 tablespoons butter depending upon how much you like your butter. I probably use even more than that. (2 tablespoons for the sandwich and 2 tablespoons for cooking the egg/s)
- 2 large slices sourdough bread, about 1.5cm thick
- 1-2 eggs, depending on preference
- 80 gms sliced ham
- 25 gms sliced gruyere cheese
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon BBQ sauce
- Generously butter both slices of sourdough on one side with a good butter using the back of a dessert spoon. This will ensure a lovely even spread of butter and the action is more gracious than using a knife. The butter should be soft enough to spread without tearing the bread but not too soft that it soaks in. These will be the outsides of the sandwich which will receive the direct heat from your grill or pan and become crunchy as they toast, yet not dry. In fact they will beautifully caramelise because of the butter.
- Fry an egg (or two) in butter until the white sets but the yolk still has some give.
- Top the unbuttered side of one slice with a few slices of excellent ham and overlap with slices of gruyère cheese. Then add the fried egg (or two). Season with sea salt and grindings of black pepper.
- Then dress these lovelies with a splodge of Dijon mustard or, if you prefer, a squidge of barbecue sauce. Or, if you are up for something more serious, go for both.
- To complete the sandwich toast in a pre-heated pan or in a sandwich press until golden. Flip and grill the second side, ensuring the sandwich is warmed through, soft on the inside and crisp on the outside.