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John is still out of town, and I’ve had a fever off and on for the past few days.  I may or may not have collapsed in misery on the floor in front of the Target pharmacy window Monday afternoon, resting my head on a big package of toilet paper, sobbing my eyes out while I waited for my prescription to be filled.  I’m somewhat better today (though my temperature is back up to 100 this afternoon).  So if anyone wants to leave comments about how sad it is that I’m sick while my husband is out of town, you may.  But anyway, a recipe.

This is what we ate on our second to last day of the pantry eating experiment.  By this point in time we were down to the bare bones.  No butter left, only a small fraction of an onion, maybe 3 pieces of bread. That morning I had been daydreaming about a can of artichoke hearts I had left and wondering how I could cook them with what we had on hand, and this recipe just came to me.

There is no way to really make photographs of this dish look beautiful.  But this was one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten.  John was beside himself.

Since it turned out so well I figured it would need a name, and I sort of pulled the term “cassoulet” out of thin air, without having any idea what a cassoulet is.  But I just googled it, and while this recipe is maybe not quite a true cassoulet (as I was fresh out of duck confit and rendered goose fat), I think it is close enough in spirit to be called one.

And apparently, in peasant homes in France, the empty cassoulet pan would be deglazed to serve as the base for the next cassoulet, a process which could go on indefinitely.  An everlasting cassoulet…

Artichoke Cassoulet

1/2 onion, diced (or any amount of onion, up to about 1 cup’s worth)

several cloves of garlic, finely diced, optional (or substitute some garlic powder; not garlic salt!)

1 T mustard

1 tin of good quality sardines or anchovies packed in olive oil, chopped into small pieces, optional (Reserve the oil and add it to the pot!  You can also use some leftover roasted chicken or some sausage, but if you’re using uncooked meat, you will want to cook it first– see directions)

1 can artichoke hearts, chopped into small pieces (reserve liquid)

1 or 2 cans of white beans of some kind (garbanzo beans etc), drained and mashed or food processed with 3-6 cloves of garlic (if you’re cooking this for more than 2 people, go on and use 2 cans, if you have them, and if you can cook some beans from scratch, do that, and use 2-3 cups of cooked beans)

3/4 c. white wine, beer, chicken or beef stock, or artichoke juice (or any combination of those, and the amount of liquid doesn’t have to be exact, just pour some in the pan.  If you pour too much, you can just cook it a little longer to let it reduce.  If you pour too little, you can just add more!)

3-6 pieces of stale bread (soak with olive oil and toast at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes first)

Note:  I used one pot for the whole process.  If you have a pot that can go from stove to oven, use it!  If not, just transfer the whole thing from a pot on the stove to an oven safe baking dish

*If using some uncooked sausage, for example, go ahead and cook on the stove it in the pot you’ll be using.  When it’s cooked, remove the meat but leave whatever fat is left.  Cook the onion in that fat, and add the meat at the same point you would have added the sardines.

1.  Drizzle a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil in a pot and bring to medium heat.  Add diced onions and a pinch or two of salt.  Stir for a few minutes, until onion is fragrant.  Add  garlic or garlic powder and cook for less than a minute.  Add mustard, sardines with their oil (or anchovies or other meat) and artichokes, with maybe a quarter of a cup of their liquid.

2.  To that, add the 1/2 c. cooking liquid.  You want the mixture to be bubbling a little, so raise the heat slightly if the mash is not hopping around in the pan. Stir until the liquid is pretty reduced, but the mixture is still a little damp.  Remove from heat.

3.  Add roughly torn pieces of toasted bread (sprouted bread is what I positively swear by but anything will do), and stir those around until the pieces are moistened through.  If there isn’t enough liquid for the bread to become mushy and well incorporated, add a little more until it is and does.  Then add the mashed beans.  Taste a small bite to see if you need to add any more salt.  Keep tasting and adding salt until it’s delicious.

4.  Scoop the mixture into an oven safe baking dish (if it isn’t already in one) and bake at 375 for 20 or 30 minutes, or until the top is nice and crispy.  (If there are browned, crispy bits stuck to the pan, you can put it back on the stove and pour a little white wine, beer, chicken stock, or water inside and cook on medium heat, scraping the brown pieces into the broth, letting the liquid reduce a little.  You can save this broth and use it to cook your next meal, add it to some soup, or make a sauce.)

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