This recipe was adapted from one given to us by author Fran Gage's friend Bobbie Nickolatos, of Benicia, California, who got the recipe from the sister of one of the longtime Holy Ghost cooks.
1/2 tsp. whole allspice berries
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. whole cloves
4 lbs. beef chuck, preferably with bones
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 bay leaves
1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1 cup tomato sauce
1 cup tomato purée
3/4 cup red wine
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
16 slices day-old soft French or Italian bread
Leaves from 3 sprigs mint
1. Put allspice, cumin, and cloves on a small square of cheesecloth, gather corners, and tie shut with kitchen twine. Put spice bag, meat, garlic, bay leaves, onions, tomato sauce and purée, wine, ketchup, cinnamon, 3 cups water, and salt to taste into a large heavy-bottomed pot. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until meat is very tender and falling off the bone, 5–6 hours. Adjust seasonings.
2. Transfer meat with a slotted spoon to a large bowl, then shred with two forks, discarding fat and bones, and put into a large serving dish. Skim fat from meat broth and discard bay leaves and spice bag. Arrange bread in another large serving dish and scatter mint on top. Ladle broth over bread and mint and set aside briefly to allow bread to swell and absorb broth before serving. Serve meat and broth-soaked bread together.