Friday, January 27, 2012


Dash moves through the world as if he doesn't have any bones, flinging his arms, whipping his leg around into a turn. A beautiful mashup of Release technique, Jose Limon, Capoeira, and clumsiness.

On the stovetop, heat a large Dutch oven or similar heavy-bottomed pot with lid. 
When Bella has asthma, I place my hands around the sides of her rib cage and ask her to balloon her inhalation into my hands; as she exhales we visualize the diaphragm parachuting back under the ribs.

Season the beef shank (or 8 cross-cut 2" shanks) with salt and pepper. Add a splash of vegetable oil to the pot. Sear on high heat on all sides. Remove shank and set aside. 
"Dash. Stop. You're going to knock Bella down the stairs. STOP!" I grab him hard. "Mama, you broke my bones!"

Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to pot. Toss in mirepoix (1 cup each of diced carrots, celery, onions). Cook at medium heat until vegetables soften. Add 5 anchovy fillets, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, and 2 tablespoons tomato paste. Stir until anchovies have melted. Turn off heat. Preheat oven to 200°F. 
"Mama. I used to think that people built people. With hammers and saws and nails. Like a hand was nailed to an arm bone. But now I know that skin keeps everything together. Skin is sticky on the inside."

Place shank back into the pot. Add 15 peeled shallots and 3 heads of garlic, broken apart and unpeeled.
My shoulder blades feel like they're caught in vines. But Dash's still float free, swimming around like little rafts.

Empty an entire bottle of red wine over the shank. Make sure it's completely covered. If not, add water.
I hold my old dog down as he panics, inner thighs squeezing into his rib cage, torso pressing into his spine. I grasp his forearms and wait for the tranquilizer to kick in, for the weight of his bones to drop down into my hands. I press his head down with my chin. He resists. I push so hard my jaw cramps. I sob out, "Shit. Wylie. Come on." Finally, his neck muscles release and he goes down. And I rest, wrapped around him, for twenty minutes.

Place covered pot in the oven. Go to sleep. You may or may not wake up to the smell of disintegrating shallots, sweet garlic, and softening tendons (your hair and everything on the coat rack will smell for days). Check after 10 hours. It's done when the meat is falling off the bone.
If I weren't such a control freak, my bones would fly apart, away from my center, off into the universe.

Remove shank from the pot and set aside. Strain remaining liquid. Save what's left behind in the strainer. Every 5 minutes or so, over the course of 30 minutes, skim off and discard the fat that floats to the top of the sauce. Meanwhile, with your fingers (you might have to dig a bit) pull out and reserve cooked shallots. Do the same with the garlic cloves. Squeeze cooked garlic out of peels into strained/skimmed sauce. Whisk vigorously. Taste. Season with salt and pepper if necessary. Shred meat off of bones and place back into sauce along with shallots. Serve meat, shallots, and sauce over pasta (egg pappardelle works well). Top with chopped parsley and grated pecorino (and maybe some toasted pine nuts and pomegranate arils).


  1. Wow. Wow. Wow. I am in awe at the power of your emotions, thought, and writing.

  2. You are teaching yoga after all. Just not to us. wowza. Sad for us; blessed is your family.

  3. my kids have asthma also. winter time is always really hard,around christmas my 3 year old woke up everynight at 12 and stayed up to 2:30 coughing and choking and weazing.this lasted at least 3 weeks. sometimes she never even woke up. most the time she would choke until she threw up. so i definetly understand what your daughter is going through. i think it is amazing that you let your kids in the kitchen like you do. i am a pastry chef so i have a lot of trouble not doing things perfect. so my kids also try to achieve perfection in the kitchen. which isn't very much fun for them. so i think your great for letting do what is natural for them. thanks for the inspiration.

  4. Phyllis,

    I cannot imagine how friggin' tender those shanks must be after cooking for 12 hours!

    Very hungry over here:)


  5. Phyllis this is undoubtedly your best post.



  6. My old dog....too.
    Thanks for the beautiful post.

  7. I love this post, and the one just previous...and many others.

  8. New to your blog via a link my Berkeley dad sent me. I grew up in the Elmwood hood. Your writing is delectable. Will be back.

  9. I just love your writting. Sincere. Genuine. Heart wrenching.


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