Kitchen Accomplice

Short ribs of beef

By John Kirkendall

There is probably no more comforting dinner or rewarding way to spend an afternoon around the stove than to prepare short ribs of beef.  This is one of those dishes that takes patience.  And your patience is amply rewarded by taking your mind off that case that is driving you nuts and by hearing the ooh’s and ah’s of those who gather around your dining table.  And there is something totally satisfying about being able to fill your living space with delectable aromas.  There will be no stragglers at the table tonight.
Your productive endurance through a Michigan wintry day will result in a delightfully pleasant and time-honored supper.  This is a rustic and simple dish.  But, as is usual among such recipes, there are certain tricks that transform this into an ethereal mouth-watering repast.   The tricks are ones I have picked up over time from revered cooks and chefs who have been kind enough to share them with me.  I am please to share them with you.
This recipe comes from Charleston, South Carolina.  And it is filled with southern accents that work perfectly in a northern kitchen.

Barolo-Braised Short Ribs with Creamy Polenta

This hearty dish comes from Brett McKee’s Italian-inspired steakhouse menu at Charleston’s Oak Steakhouse.  The polenta is compliments of Alton Brown of the Food Network.  He receives raves for this.  You’ll see why.

4 servings

Braised Short Ribs


2 tablespoons olive oil

2 pounds flanken-style short ribs (Your butcher will know)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, sliced very thin

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup Barolo wine

1 cup canned whole tomatoes, crushed by hand

1/2 cup veal or beef stock

1/4 bunch thyme

1/4 bunch rosemary

1/4 bunch oregano


To prepare the short ribs, preheat oven to 375ºF. In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over high heat. Season the ribs with salt and pepper.  The first tip is to place the ribs, a few at a time in the hot Dutch oven and cook on both sides until deep brown, about 2 minutes on each side. Remove from the Dutch oven and set aside.  Continue until all ribs are browned.  Add carrots, celery, onions, and garlic to the Dutch oven and cook until browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook for 1 more minute. Add the wine, tomatoes, and stock and stir, scraping the sides and bottom of the pot to pick up any caramelized bits that formed as the ribs were browning. Add the thyme, rosemary, and oregano. Bring the braising liquid to a boil and add the ribs. Cover the Dutch oven and place in the preheated oven until the ribs are very tender, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  Test the ribs after an hour.  It could be they will take another hour.  Check them periodically.  Ovens vary.  Ribs vary.  You are looking for ribs that are very tender.



2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for grilling or sautéing if desired

3/4 cup finely chopped red onion

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 quart chicken stock or broth

1 cup coarse ground cornmeal

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 ounces Parmesan, grated


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large, oven-safe saucepan heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the red onion and salt and sweat until the onions begin to turn translucent, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add the garlic, and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes, making sure the garlic does not burn.

Turn the heat up to high, add the chicken stock, bring to a boil. Gradually add the cornmeal while continually whisking. Once you have added all of the cornmeal, cover the pot and place it in the oven. Cook for 35 to 40 minutes, stirring every10 minutes to prevent lumps. Once the mixture is creamy, remove from the oven and add the butter, salt, and pepper. Once they are incorporated, gradually add the Parmesan.

Serve as is, or pour the polenta into 9 by 13-inch cake pan lined with parchment paper. Place in the refrigerator to cool completely.

Once set, turn the polenta out onto a cutting board and cut into squares, rounds, or triangles. Brush each side with olive oil and sauté in a nonstick skillet over medium heat, or grill.  My favorite method is to prepare the polenta in advance, cut it in desired shapes and sauté just in time to receive the short rib topping.

Judge Kirkendall is a retired Probate Judge. He presently serves on the Elder Law Advisory Board of the Stetson University College of Law. He has taught cooking classes for more than 25 years at various cooking schools in the Ann Arbor area and has himself attended classes at Cordon Bleu and La Varenne in Paris, as well as schools in New York, New Orleans and San Francisco. I am (thankfully) past president of the National College of Probate Judges. He can be reached at


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