Hunting season will be upon us in just a few short weeks, and when it comes time to go into the woods, it’ll be made easier if you’ve given adequate time and attention to the people in you leave behind, and what better way to do that than to share a lovely Sunday brunch?
This is a classic ham and cheese sandwich turned to eleven. It’s easy and it’s more than suitable for breakfast, but it’s perfect for a lazy Summer Sunday brunch, and as always, it’s 1000% better when you make it with ingredients you’ve harvested yourself. This version uses wild ham from a deer, wild hog, cougar or bear. Here’s my recipe for Wild Ham.
Wild Ham Croque Madame
- 8 oz ham ideally wild ham
- 6 oz Swiss or Gruyere cheese
- 6 oz whole milk or half and half
- 4 slices bread rustic variety preferable, sourdough is traditional
- 4 eggs optional but encouraged
- 3 tbsp Herbes de Provence
- 2 tbsp Dijon or grainy mustard
- All-purpose flour
- Salt and pepper
- Start by slicing and buttering and arranging your bread, buttered- side-down on a parchment or silicone-lined baking sheet.
- Grate cheese and toss with Herbes de Provence in a bowl and set aside.
- Julienne or slice your ham and set that aside as well. Chunks may be a little prettier, but trust me here – this will make eating a much more manageable mess.
- To start your Béchamel, you’ll need to make a roux; there are myriad ways to do this, but for Béchamel, I find that a 1:1 ratio butter/flour (by weight) is nearly foolproof. If you don’t have a scale, use 3.5 tbsp flour to every tablespoon of fat. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat and whisk in 7 tablespoons of flour. You will find that the mixture will go from dry and clumpy to creamy before starting to show grain clearly again. Continue to whisk just until you start to see the roux start to brown, then it is time to add your milk. Continue to whisk until smooth adding a pinch of nutmeg, a tsp of Herbes de Provence, and remove from meat. Season with salt and pepper to taste and you are ready to construct your Croque Madame.
- Set your oven to broil on High and adjust your oven racks to a middle position.
- Arrange the ham atop each slice of bread, ladle on some béchamel and top generously with the herbed-cheese mixture.
- Toast these open-faced beneath the broiler until the cheese begins to bubble and crisp around the edges.
- For a final flourish; add a fried egg – of course, you can add a second slice of toast to create the ultimate breakfast sandwich, but I prefer these open-face and with an extra dollop of Béchamel.
Tristan Henry is a lifelong Oregonian and perennial student of wild food and wild places. Tristan spent his youth in wetlands and on farms of rural western Oregon, where he cultivated a sense for stewardship and love for cooking. After college, he relocated to central Oregon, where he manages a small advertising agency, co-chairs the Oregon Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, chases elk with his bow, and wanders the hills with his wife and dog in search of food and fun.