Weeknight Cooking

Why You Can't Tell Phyllis Grant Not to Braise, Even in Summer

June  3, 2015

When she has the kitchen all to herself, Phyllis Grant of Dash and Bella cooks beautiful iterations of what solo meals were always meant to be: exactly what you want, when, and where you want them.

Today: We interrupt our regularly scheduled Cooking What I Want content to bring you the next in our "Meet Our Contributors" series—Food52's version of show and tell. We're asking some of the voices behind your favorite columns to share a recipe that represents them (and explain why). Here, Phyllis talks about braised meat, and why, if stranded on an island, all she needs is a flask and a jar of Nutella. 

Shop the Story

Tell us about this recipe—what about it makes it you?
Honestly, any braised meat warms the cockles of my heart. (Goal: I must quote a Woody Allen movie in every interview.) Seasoned, seared, covered with liquid. I love to watch the magic happen. The slow transformation. You can pretty much throw anything in with the meat: wine or beer or over-the-hill Lillet Blanc. A few anchovies or boquerones. Garlic, onions, carrots. And then you get to have your oven on all day long, warming your home, filling all of the corners with those intoxicating smells.

I never make it just for myself. It is for Christmas. A birthday crowd. An apology. It is a gift wrapped in a tortilla to be splashed with crème fraîche and Sriracha and eaten with your hands. It is a vessel for all of my favorite toppings. And it is the culmination of so many years of playing in the kitchen by myself, with my kids, for my husband.

What is your desert island food (practicalities aside)?
Is gin a food? Just give me a flask, a tub of Nutella, and an oyster knife. I’m pretty easy to please. Well, maybe I would need some of my mom’s Caesar salad. And some chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. A few anchovy-draped 5-minute eggs dotted with crème fraîche and Sriracha. A carnitas burrito with extra sour cream and guacamole. Bowls of polenta finished off with splats of mascarpone. Should I continue?


Those of us who know Phyllis on Instagram know her by her black fingernails, by anchovies and tarts and braised meat, and by her famous handstands. Follow her @dashandbella.

What is your vegetable spirit animal?
What is the culinary equivalent of a hummingbird? (I’ve been told that’s what I am because I never stop moving.) For some reason I want to say mini red radishes: mandolined, pickled, jarred. Let them fly all over everything from arugula salad to avocado toast to roast chicken.

What’s one food you pretend to like but secretly hate?
Oatmeal. No matter the coarseness of the grain (long cooking, instant, heirloom) or the length of time cooked (overnight in a crock pot, for an hour in whole milk, with fennel pollen) or the toppings (brown sugar, walnuts, caramel), it still reminds me of a pot of glue. Let me be more specific: the kind of homemade glop we used for papier–mâché in the '70s to attach strips of newspaper to balloons. 

What is your greatest, most exciting culinary failure?
I decided to ask my husband and kids. My husband turned towards the sink and said, "The mountain of dishes. The overflowing buckets of compost. That’s where you fail." So true! I can’t stay on top of it all. But here’s the deal: I haven’t stopped cooking since I met my husband 25 years ago. Almost three meals a day. We’ve had plenty of boring meals. Thousands of simple salads, pastas, tarts, hamburgers. Lots of take-out pizza eaten while watching TV on Netflix. But no big disasters.

The truth is, I’m not a brave cook. I rarely take on complicated recipes, so there’s very little room for drama and excitement. The most stressful thing I’ve ever made is cassoulet. That experience has brought me to tears three years in a row. Wait. I thought of a failure. When my son was three years old, I locked him in his room so I could finish making a leg of lamb and a crème renversée without interruption. But I guess that’s a parenting failure in the service of a culinary success. And boy do I have a lot of those.

Short Ribs Braised in Red Wine and Vanilla

Serves 4

4 beef short ribs
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Pepper for seasoning meat
4 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 handful fresh herbs like thyme, rosemary, tarragon, sage (no need to remove from stems)
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced (remove seeds)
3 anchovy fillets, packed in oil
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons good quality vanilla extract
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 to 3 cups red wine
Parsley and cilantro for garnish

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Phyllis Grant

Order now

A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

Order now

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Melina Hammer
    Melina Hammer
  • heatheranne
Phyllis Grant is an IACP finalist for Personal Essays/Memoir Writing and a three-time Saveur Food Blog Awards finalist for her blog, Dash and Bella. Her essays and recipes have been published in a dozen anthologies and cookbooks including Best Food Writing 2015 and 2016. Her work has been featured both in print and online for various outlets, including Oprah, The New York Times, Food52, Saveur, The Huffington Post, Time Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, Tasting Table and Salon. Her memoir with recipes, Everything Is Out of Control, is coming out April 2020 from Farrar Straus & Giroux. She lives in Berkeley, California with her husband and two children.


Melina H. June 7, 2015
when i'm back in new york, we must handstand and cocktail together. thinking we'll much more likely run into each other there than seeing your fair face in the lush south.
heatheranne June 3, 2015
Haha. I liked the headline. I don't eat a ton of meat, but when I do, it's braised. l love it. I turn my oven on for hours in the summer. I get really hot. And then I eat delicious meat, and I don't care :)