Stephane's Most Tempting Sandwich: Croque Madame

Libby Volgyes, The Palm Beach Post, February 12, 2013

Settle into the super-luxe red velvet chairs at Stephane's restaurant in Boca Raton and glance around at the inspiring art and fashion coffee table books that line the walls, the bottles of Veuve beckoning, the murals of beautiful women on the ceiling -- and your inner Parisian just might emerge.

That will help you when you go to order your "Croque Madame." Just finish with a bit of a hair toss and you're in good shape. And feel free to order a glass of rose or Mersault while you're at it -- they've got personalized wine pairings for everything on the menu just to elevate your meal.

By the time your very French sandwich is served (the Croque Madame is $14 at lunch and $16 at dinner) you'll be eager to dig into the thin, just-crispy enough French fries that are laced with parsley, sage, rosemary. They're perfect for dipping into the sauce Mornay -- a critical component of the Croque Madame.

For those who never spent a summer backpacking through France, here's an intro to a Croque Madame: it starts with a ham and cheese sandwich -- Stephane's uses two different types of cheese, Swiss and Emmenthal, and a smoked Virginia ham. Crusts are cut off the bread. The sandwich is grilled to delectableness. Then it's topped with that sauce Mornay and crowned with a perfectly basted fried egg.

"You have to cook the egg with some of the butter in the pan," explains Executive Chef John Belleme. "The most important part is the sandwich is topped before the egg with the Mornay sauce. Mornay sauce is a classic French cheese sauce made with half and half and more cheese."

It sounds like overkill, but trust me, it's not. It's perfection.

Stephane's: 2006 NW Executive Center Circle, Boca Raton; 561-893-8838;; open Monday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to midnight, Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to midnight. ___