This dish can also be made with cauliflower, endive, fennel, or white asparagus in place of artichokes. Stick to white vegetables, however, as green vegetables will turn brown.
8 large artichokes
1 medium yellow onion, peeled
2 small leeks, tops trimmed and green outer leaves discarded
2 celery stalks, trimmed and peeled
2 small carrots, peeled
2 slices bacon (optional)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled
Freshly ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs of fresh tarragon
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 3/4 cups dry white wine
1. Combine the juice 2 1/2 of the lemons and 2 quarts of water in a large bowl. Trim each artichoke, removing the stem, leaves, and choke and rubbing from time to time with the remaining half lemon. (See below for detailed instructions.) Set the trimmed artichoke bottoms aside in the lemon water.
2. Cut the onion lengthwise, then slice thin. Quarter the leeks lengthwise, then cut them into thin strips about 2 inches long. Thinly slice the celery and carrots. (You will have roughly equal amounts of onion, leeks, and celery.)
3. If you are using the bacon, render it for 2 to 3 minutes, then add 1/4 cup of the oil, otherwise just heat the oil in a large high-sided pot over medium heat until it slides easily across the pan. Add the onions, leeks, celery, and carrots -- the aromatic vegetables -- to the pot. Season with salt, then reduce the heat the heat to medium-low and slowly cook the aromatic vegetables, stirring occasionally, until they are tender but not brown, about 20 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
4. Drain the artichokes and add them to the pot. Add a little more salt and pepper, enough olive oil to coat the artichokes (about 2 tablespoons), the bay leaves, and half the tarragon and thyme. Mix gently and arrange the artichokes in a single layer. Pour in the wine and enough water to cover the artichokes, about 2 cups, and bring to a simmer. Partially cover the pot, reduce the heat, and gently simmer until the artichokes can be easily pierced with a knife, about 30 minutes.
5. Coarsely chop the remaining tarragon and thyme. Add the herbs to the artichokes and remove the pot from from the heat. Allow the artichokes to cool slowly in the braising liquid, then garnish with aromatic vegetables and some additional herbs. Serve at room temperature, chilled as a cold dish, or heated through.
How to prepare the artichokes:
1. Trim the stem, leaving about 1 inch. Break off the tough outer leaves.
2. Lay the artichoke on its side and chop off the tops of the inner leaves, about 1 1/2 inches from the stem.
3. Use a paring knife to peel away the outer layers that surround the heart, as though peeling an apple.
4. Use a spoon to scrape out the immature leaves and the fuzzy choke.
5. Trim the top of the heart. Rub with lemon to keep the artichoke from discoloring.