Holiday Chef Series: Joe Schafer

We asked our chefs to share their holiday traditions and memories with us, and we’ve created a Holiday Chef Series from all of their submissions. Our series features family recipes, photographs, cherished moments, favorite holiday dishes, and more. We hope you enjoy!

“I make a cassoulet every year at my house for Christmas dinner. It started as an accident. We decided to have just a few people over one year, and I happened to have the makings of a “sort of” cassoulet. I have since refined it over the years and made it a bit more of a process. Now, my daughter really loves cooking with me and we started making this together. She’s 4-years-old, and as long as I keep the cookies coming, she has her hands in it with me. My wife and I have family all over, so leading up to Christmas is a bit of a press tour and it’s fun, but makes it hard to relax. We get Christmas day at our house to ourselves. A few people are invited, but we try to keep it small. That said, this recipe is a ton of work but it’s worth it….also it’s the holidays, do some work. Ha Ha!” – Joe Schafer, Executive Chef at Philips Arena

Christmas Cassoulet (serves 8-10 people)

 Day 1

  • 6 duck legs
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 tablespoon picked thyme leaves
  • 4 cup dry tarbais or cannellini beans
  • 12 cups cold water
  1. Mix together the salt, sugar, pepper, allspice and thyme leaves.
  2. Liberally coat the outside of each duck leg with this cure, you will only need what sticks to the duck.
  3. Refrigerate overnight.
  4. Rinse the beans and pick out any stones or beans with bad spots.
  5. Soak the beans in a container large enough to hold them submerged in the water.
  6. Refrigerate overnight.

Day 2

  • 2 quarts duck fat
  • 5 bay leaves
  1. Preheat your oven to 200F.
  2. Warm the duck fat so it is completely liquefied.
  3. Rinse the duck legs of the cure, pat dry.
  4. Place the legs in a wide casserole dish or a vessel big enough to hold the legs and fat.
  5. Pour the fat over the legs to cover.
  6. Add the bay leaves.
  7. Cover tightly and place in the oven for 3.5-4hrs, until the meat is beginning to fall off the bone.
  8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temp.
  9. Remove the legs from the fat (you may strain and save the fat, it freezes well).
  10. Cool the legs overnight.
  11. Strain the soaking water off the beans.
  12. Place the beans in a large pot with enough water to cover by several inches.
  13. Season the water to taste with salt.
  14. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.
  15. Simmer until the beans are barely becoming tender, about 2/3 of the way (there should be a slight crunch to them).
  16. Cool the beans in the liquid overnight.

Day 3

  • 3oz slab bacon, large dice
  • 2 white onions, peeled, small dice
  • 3 celery stalks, small dice
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled, small dice
  • 8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 5 sprigs thyme
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 1 cup cognac
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 quarts chicken stock or broth
  • 6 Toulouse or saucisson l’ail (garlic pork and/or duck sausage) links
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat your oven to 250F.
  2. In a large dutch oven or pot, render the bacon until the slightly brown.
  3. Add the vegetables and aromatics and sweat until tender, try not to caramelize.
  4. Add the cognac and wine, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.
  5. Simmer until the liquid is reduced almost dry. *at this point you may transfer these ingredients to a casserole dish if your pot is too small for the remaining ingredients
  6. Turn off the heat.
  7. Layer in the beans, duck legs and sausages.
  8. Add the chicken stock and turn the heat back on.
  9. Bring the liquid to a simmer.
  10. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  11. Cover tightly and place in the oven until the liquid is absorbed and the beans are very tender, about 2-2.5hrs.
  12. Let stand for a few minutes before serving.