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French Brie, Ham and Asparagus Strata & Pilsner Urquell

Each month, we'll post some of our favourite pairings featuring seasonal recipes served with wine, beer, spirits or coolers.

The asparagus and fragrant fresh tarragon in this strata sing beautifully, making it an excellent pairing for a Pilsner with a pleasing dry palate toting flavours of fresh bread, citrus and honey. If a ham and cheese croissant is your idea of l’amour, you’ll love this make-ahead party dish. The best part? Nothing has to be done the morning of your brunch, except for moving the strata from the fridge to the oven. If you want to go vegetarian, let sautéed yellow pepper strips stand in for the ham.

Eating before and while you drink is a great way to enjoy responsibly. So plan ahead with some drink and recipe pairings to keep you and your guests satiated.

Ingredients

8 oz (250 g) thin asparagus, about 1 small bunch
4 large croissants
2 double crème brie wheels (each 200 g) or goat cheese brie wheels (each 165 g)
¼ cup (60 mL) coarsely chopped tarragon leaves, divided
2 tsp (10 mL) herbes de Provence, divided
7 oz (200 g) piece smoked Black Forest ham
8 eggs
2 tsp (10 mL) Dijon mustard
2½ cups (625 mL) homogenized milk
½ tsp (2 mL) salt 

Directions

  1. Break and discard tough ends from asparagus. Slice spears into bite-size lengths to make about 1½ cups (375 mL). Cook in boiling water until tender-crisp, about 2 minutes. Drain and plunge asparagus into cold water to stop cooking, then drain well and pat dry. Set aside.
  2. Slice each croissant in half to form 2 croissant-shaped pieces. Butter or spray a 12-cup (3 L) baking dish, such as a 13 x 9-inch (3 L) oval or rectangular dish. Place bottom croissant halves, cut-side up, in prepared dish. Break remaining croissants into bite-size pieces and use some to fill in spaces on the bottom of the dish. Press down firmly on croissants. 
  3. To make cheese easy to slice, place in the freezer for 30 minutes. Slice and discard rinds from cheese. Slice cheese as thinly as you can. Cover croissants in dish with half of the cheese. Sprinkle with 2 tbsp (30 mL) tarragon leaves and 1 tsp (5 mL) herbes de Provence. Remove and discard rind from ham. Julienne ham into bite-size pieces, about ⅓ inch (8 mm) wide, to make about 2 cups (500 mL). Scatter half of ham over cheese; top with half of well-dried asparagus. Scatter with remaining croissant pieces, cut-side down. Press down firmly. Lay remaining cheese on top. Scatter with remaining ham, herbes de Provence, tarragon and asparagus. 
  4. In a large bowl, whisk 2 eggs with Dijon until no lumps remain. Whisk in remaining eggs, then whisk in milk and salt. Gradually pour egg mixture evenly over strata. Stretch a piece of plastic wrap over surface of strata. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight. 
  5. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). 
  6. Remove plastic wrap and place cold strata in the centre of oven. Lay a large piece of foil loosely over top of dish (do not seal to the sides). Bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking for 45 more minutes, until puffed, golden and centre of strata seems set when dish is jiggled. Let strata sit for 10 minutes before serving. For ease in serving, run a thin knife between dish and warm strata. This strata is lovely with a pink grapefruit and mesclun mix salad, fennel slaw or marinated artichoke and green olive toss. 
 
Serves 8
 
 

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