Roasted Asparagus with Lemon, Garlic, and Tarragon (aka Asparagus Crack)
This. Is. Perfection.
This is by far one of my favorite things in the world to eat. A plate of room temp vegetables might not be some peoples’ idea of a good time, but these things are as addictive as French fries. Every time I’ve seen them served at a party, they are gone instantly. Even with kids around!
My mother began making this dish when I was very young, and she claims to have just had it occur to her out of nowhere while browsing fresh herbs at the Farmers’ Market.
Every Sunday morning, she would drag us all out of bed very early, and we’d pile into the Suburban and head to the Beverly Hills. Back then, their farmers’ market was in a different place than it is now and it seemed to sprawl forever. We kids would scurry up ahead of mom and sample every sweet ripe piece of fruit we could. I think we somehow realized how lucky we were to have all the glorious produce we do–Los Angeles is brimming with beautifully ripe and vibrant fruit year-round.
Mom would buy us little plates of chilaquiles, soaked in a perfect red sauce and scattered with melty cheese. She’d tell us to each pick one vegetable and one fruit for the week, and my brothers and I would get excited to try new things. My go-to was always broccoli. I loved my broccoli.
Our last stop before returning to the car was always a honey stand, and we each got to pick 3 of those little flavored honey-filled straws, which we’d suck on during the ride home.
Those trips to the Farmers’ Market were so special. They were a tradition throughout my childhood, and trips to the market in my adulthood still bring back these wonderful feelings of love and excitement for what is to be found.
So it was on one fateful Sunday morning that my mother picked up a fresh bunch of tarragon. Tarragon is a strange herb–it’s grassy and fresh, with hints of licorice. You don’t see it often in recipes, I’ve noticed. Maybe here and there as part of a mix of herbs on roasted chicken. But it is so perfect with asparagus. The tarragon plays off the lemon, garlic, and asparagus here like nothing else I’ve ever tasted.
This is the perfect vegetable side dish. It’s healthy, simple, virtually fat-free, and can be made far in advance. Serve it cold or at room temperature. And be prepared to not have any left over.
Roasted Asparagus with Lemon, Garlic, and Tarragon
My mother sometimes prepared this on the stovetop on days where the oven was occupied. Directions for a stovetop method are listed below.
2 bunches asparagus, woody ends trimmed
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, smashed
- extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- 1 small lemon
- 2-3 sprigs of fresh tarragon
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the asparagus and garlic on a baking sheet and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Toss to coat and place in oven for 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, slice half of the lemon into thin slices, and tear the tarragon sprigs in two or give them a rough chop. Remove pan from oven and add lemon slices and herbs, and give everything a quick toss. Return to oven for another 5 minutes. Asparagus should be crisp-tender.
3. Squeeze a bit of the reserved lemon half over the dish, toss to coat, and let cool before serving. This dish is best when left in the fridge for several hours for the flavors to meld.
1. Fill a large skillet or saucepan with 1.5″ of water. Bring to a boil, add asparagus, and reduce heat. Simmer only a few minutes, or until asparagus can be easily pierced with a fork but still retains some crunch. Drain and run asparagus under cold water to stop cooking. Drain well and place in a large dish.
2. Return skillet to stovetop over medium-low heat. Add a swirl of olive oil and immediately add garlic, chopped into large pieces. Turn heat down slightly and let garlic steep in the oil as it warms. As soon as the oil starts to sizzle, turn off heat and add chopped tarragon. Pour garlic-herb-oil over asparagus and toss to coat. Squeeze with the juice of 1/2 a lemon (or more to taste). Refrigerate until ready to serve.