When I was a young teenager, my mother cooked some artichokes and sat my brother and I down for a lesson on how to eat them. Apparently, when she herself was a teen, she was invited home with a friend from her boarding school and served artichokes at an elegant dinner with the family. She had never seen one before and was a bit flummoxed, and embarrassed. She worked her way through it by watching the other diners but was furious at her mother for never telling her about artichokes. When she related all this to my grandmother, she was mortified at her lapse. So she then started serving artichokes every time my mom was home from school. My mother didn’t want to make the same mistake with us, so we were given those proper lessons. I am sure at the time I sighed and rolled my eyes, but I did enjoy the artichokes. Sure enough, on several occasions later in life, I found myself at a table with an artichoke and other dinners who didn’t know what to make of it and was thankful for my mother’s foresight.
I can’t say we ate a lot of artichokes growing up, but when we did they were generally boiled then served with melted butter or, on special occasions, hollandaise sauce, though I think that was more often a restaurant thing. I sometimes buy myself an artichoke when they look good and savor it as a special meal with lots of butter. There is no getting around the fact that artichokes take some work. Removing the leaves and trimming the tips takes some patience, and they brown very quickly when cut, so you have to be work fast with the lemon. I discovered this method of roasting artichokes and I find it a little bit more manageable than finding a pot big enough to boil them in, plus it really intensifies the flavor. And this tangy vinaigrette is fresher and brighter than a heavy, creamy sauce. These artichokes are every bit as elegant the classic, but can also be presented in a more rustic way. I have put the roasting dish out next to a bowl of extra vinaigrette and a bowl for the leaves and let people pull them off and enjoy as snack. I think artichokes are a lovely way to welcome spring.
Roasted Artichokes with Lemon Tarragon Vinaigrette
1 bunch tarragon
2 Tablespoons chopped shallot
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
4 Tablespoons plus ½ cup olive oil
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Cut the stalks from the artichokes so they stand straight. Cut off about ½ inch from the top of each artichoke, then remove any tough outer leaves. Snip off the pointy tops of the other leaves. Place the artichokes in a deep baking dish that fits them close together. Cut one lemon in half and rub it over the exposed cuts on the top and leaves of the artichokes. Squeeze the juice from the lemon into the baking dish, then tuck in a few sprigs of tarragon. Pour boiling water into the dish to come halfway up the sides of the artichokes, then cover tightly with foil. Roast the artichokes for one hour. Uncover the dish, then drizzle the 4 Tablespoons of olive oil evenly over the artichokes and cook for another 15 minutes until a knife inserted in the bottom meets no resistance and the leaves pull off easily.
While the artichokes are roasting, mix the shallots, 2 Tablespoons lemon juice, 1 Tablespoon of chopped tarragon, and the mustard and generous pinches of salt and pepper in jar. Shake to combine, then add the ½ cup of olive oil and shake until combined.
When the artichokes are done, give the vinaigrette a good shake and drizzle over the tops. Serve any extra dressing on the side for dipping.