Perfect sunny-side up eggs meet their perfect match atop toasted ham and cheese sandwiches.

In France it is called a croque madame. But whatever you dub them, these beauties are perfect treats any time of day or night. Or, how ’bout Easter?

Jason Petrie, Executive Chef at Pinot Provence (Costa Mesa), offered to show me how to create perfectly cooked sunny-side eggs. Breaking eggs, he turned to look at Register photographer Cindy Yamanaka as she adjusted her lights.

Cindy knows how to light a professional kitchen so that the images she takes look like they were shot in a photo studio.  Plus, Cindy loves delicious food.

Sunny-Side: No browning on these babies. Just bleached bed-sheet white surrounding bright orange-tinted yellow yolk are acceptable for Petrie’s sunny-side ups, his favorite way to eat eggs.

Don’t rush it. Using a nonstick six-inch skillet on low heat, melt some unsalted butter (Petrie uses Plugrá). Let it heat (but NOT brown) a little and add two side-by-side eggs. Cook until the white sets and is uniformly opaque, about two minutes. Use a heatproof silicone or rubber spatula to loosen the edges and to separate the two eggs down the middle.

Sunny-side egg sits atop the sandwich that has be slathered with Mornay sauce (Bechamel sauce that has Gruyere cheese in it) and baked until golden.

Next, oh such a nice touch, a simple green salad-like mixture makes a crunchy crown.

Petrie said that home cooks could assemble and brown the sandwiches a day in advance then refrigerate them. Before serving they can be warmed in a 300-degree oven (10 to 15 minutes), then topped with Mornay (which also could be made in advance and refrigerated) and browned in a 350-degree oven while the eggs are prepared and salad is tossed.

Croque Madam a la Petrie

Yield: 2 servings
Mornay sauce:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup grated gruyere cheese
Salt to taste
4 slices brioche or egg bread or challah
8 thin slices gruyere cheese
8 thin slices Black Forrest ham
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 to 2 teaspoons butter
2 eggs
Salad topping:
2 cups frisee, see cook’s notes
Enough extra-virgin olive oil to lightly coat leaves
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
Cook’s notes: Frisee is a variety of curly endive with delicate, ragged edges. If you can’t find it, substitute a mixture of baby greens.
1. Prepare Mornay sauce: In a medium saucepan melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and whisk to combine. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes (do NOT brown). Whisk in milk and salt; increase heat to medium and bring to a simmer, whisking. Whisk in 1/2 cup grated gruyere cheese. When cheese melts, remove from heat and set aside.

2. Prepare sandwiches: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place brioche on dry, clean work surface. Divide cheese and ham slices between the brioche slices. Season with salt and pepper. Make two sandwiches by topping two bread-cheese-ham slices with another, placing filling sides together. Spread 2 tablespoons butter on the outside of sandwiches.

3. Heat an ovenproof nonstick skillet on medium heat. Brown both sides of the sandwiches. Spoon Mornay sauce on top of each sandwich, spreading it with the back of a spoon. Place in preheated oven until top is golden brown, about 5 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, cook the eggs sunny-side up. On medium-low heat, melt 1 to 2 teaspoons butter in a medium-size nonstick skillet. Lift pan from stovetop and tilt handle to swirl butter over surface of skillet. Return to heat and add two eggs, one at a time, placing them side by side. Cook until egg whites turn opaque and solidify, about 2 minutes. As they cook, occasionally loosen the sides of the eggs with a heatproof silicone or rubber spatula. Don’t rush it; let the eggs gently cook. Add salt and pepper.

5. In a medium bowl, toss frisee with just enough extra-virgin olive oil to lightly coat the leaves. Add parsley, plus salt and pepper to taste. Toss.

6. To assemble, place sandwiches on separate plates. Top each with a sunny-side up egg. Top each with frisee mixture. Serve.

Bonnie says to use organic eggs not these silly plastic fakes.

Good advice. Bonnie should know. She has a sunny-side up egg everyday for breakfast.

Pinot Provence restaurant is in the stylish Westin South Coast Plaza Hotel. Breakfast is served 365 days a year. And eggs for the most part are cooked on low heat.