Creamed Chipped Beef on Toast

Classics: Creamed Chipped Beef on Toast

Look, these are tough economic times. Not every lunch can be the aged hangar steak at Five Fifty-Five, and not every dinner can be the spit-roasted pork loin with a crisp Cold River gin martini seated at the bar at Fore Street. Sometimes, the cable bill is 45 days past due, payday is still 10 days away, and you’re wearing two jackets in the house so you won’t have to turn up the thermostat. And on those days, it helps to be able to pull a filling meal together for less than the cost of a newspaper.

Anyone who has spent any time in a roadside diner, in a retirement home, in the Army, or, for that matter, in the state mental hospital, is intimately familiar with creamed chipped beef on toast, or as it’s known in some circles, “Shit on a Shingle,” more politely abbreviated to “S.O.S.” With origins in the South as a breakfast item, traditional creamed chipped beef is most often made with dried, shelf-stable slivers of intensely salty beef. You may have noticed it in the supermarket, packaged in a small glass jar. The beef is rehydrated (to some extent) while being heated in a dead-simple stovetop white sauce. It can be made with as many or as few ingredients as you have on hand. It’s simple, comforting food, and easy to whip up in a pinch.

Trying to “dress up” creamed chip beef is like trying to have sex while wearing a tuxedo; the kind of people that would be impressed by your top hat probably aren’t in the room, anyway. Our recipe doesn’t stray far from the original, and most of our embellishments are completely optional. Fancy it up, if you have what you need on hand. It’s certainly not something to go shopping for. To keep it extra economical, we opted to use the 69 cent-per-package Carl Buddig “Beef,” a chopped, pressed product that is thinly sliced and perfectly suited for this dish (and little else), while cutting back a tiny bit on the salt present in the traditional jarred dried beef.

Creamed Chipped Beef on Toast (S.O.S)
Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 6 ounces Carl Buddig brand sliced “Beef”
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • Dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • Dash of Worcestershire sauce (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons white wine (optional)
  • 2 slices of buttered toast

Method:

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Slowly add flour, whisking. Cook one minute, or until flour starts to brown. Slowly pour in milk, whisking constantly. Simmer until sauce thickens, about 1 minute more. Add salt, pepper, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, Worcestershire, and white wine. Cut beef into one inch squares, and stir into the sauce. Spoon mixture over a slice of buttered toast, and top with freshly ground pepper.

Our “Classics” series tackles some of our favorite dishes from Maine’s rich culinary tradition. You can think of them as “traditional” dishes, or more accurately, things you might have had for hot lunch in the fourth grade, had you attended St. George Elementary. To read more from this series, click here.

Comments

  1. joyce says

    I grew up on this……and hated it. Now I make it but, less beef more sauce. Add a few peas and serve over WELL buttered biscuits. Now I love it.
    With the red and green it’s a Christmas dinner!!

    • Malcolm says

      Oh, I like the idea of mixing some vegetables into this…I will definitely try it with peas, next time. Thank you for the suggestion!

    • Malcolm says

      Really? I thought this was one of the most un-pretentious things I could possibly have cooked. I didn’t mean to make you ill.

  2. G.R. says

    Dorky “Tim” doesn’t really know what pretentiousness (or hipster-ness) is. He’s a know-nothing afraid of articulate speech and thought. That said, the article’s a tad overwritten.

  3. kat says

    I love your writing style! It adds so much depth and interest to the recipe. this is definitely my new favorite food blog.

  4. Linda Collins says

    My Dad use to make SOS with ham and sliced boiled eggs—he’s been gone for 13 years now and I cant find a recipe for it anywhere. Any suggestions? Thanks

    • says

      I just came across this blog while searching for cream chipped beef recipes when I noticed your post. My Dad also use to make a version with ham and boiled eggs. He added his to cream of mushroom soup, Campbell’s of course, with some milk added. I hope this helps even though it’s been over a year and a half. Your post brought some happy memories. My Dad has been gone 7 years now.

  5. Karen says

    I ‘liked’ this recipe….but the picture that showed up on FB is NOT Creamed Chipped Beef. Made me look like an idiot. I did it twice, and still the same thing. :-( While the title said Creamed Chipped Beef, the picture looked like chicken with peppers or something.

  6. Julie says

    My dad was in the Army during WWII and he said they called it SOS because the cooks made it with ground beef instead of chipped beef. They would have been thrilled to get creamed chipped beef – wasn’t happening!

  7. Sara says

    Hi Malcolm, I’d love to try this for breakfast Sunday morning. I’ve checked a few groceries for the “beef,” and only one of them carried a version of it – but just a 4 ounce package at a price of nearly $4. Where did you pick up the Carl Buddig brand?

    • Malcolm Bedell says

      Hi Sara! The Carl Buddig stuff is at most supermarkets, usually grouped with the other budget packaged lunchmeats (bologna, boiled ham, etc). I like it on bagels with cream cheese, as well, because I’m gross like that.

      • Marie Taylor says

        OMG. I thought I would have to use dried beef. Carl Buddig lunch meat is dirt cheap in our stores, like .85 a package. I first ate this in the Air Force and love it.

  8. Don says

    I noticed on the Title Chipped Beef On Toast the was a notation of (S.O.S.). This was not S.O.S. when I was in the Navy. It had a different name that I cannot say on this blog.

    • Jim says

      Hi Don,

      I have heard some say the SOS means “Same Old Stuff”. However, that’s the watered-down version. Those who have been in the military remember it being called “S*** on a Shingle” because it often was a congealed mass of flour and meat (usually chipped beef in the Army and ground beef in the Navy), or a soupy white gravy with pieces of meat served over dry pieces of toast. As to why they differed in content, I can only figure it was that the chipped beef didn’t need refrigeration – something that lent it to battlefield conditions; while refrigeration of the ground beef was not normally a problem in the Navy.

      That said, I consider the chipped beef to be the real deal. And, whether the “S” is served on toast, biscuits, rice, noodles or potatoes, I still consider SOS to be a comfort food right up there with Cottage Pie, Mac & Cheese, Beef Barley Soup & fresh crusty bread, or a big old plate of spaghetti and meatballs; custard pie and coffee too. ;-)

      For those of you who freak out at the price of the Chipped Beef, don’t sweat it. A package, or jar….I prefer the jar because it seems to taste better (prolly an ‘Old Jedi Mind Trick’) and you can reuse the container for a glass, like the jelly jars of old…and when made-up can serve a ton of people. Ok, realistically, 4-6 people and maybe 8…but, including the milk and butter, it still comes out to under a buck a head for a stick-to-your-ribs meal. Trust me when I say this, If it wasn’t cost effective, the military would not be serving it as regularly as they do. :-)

      Malcolm, believe me when I tell you that ‘nutmeg’ was not a mandatory ingredient, if fact, I can’t remember it being in any ‘Field Kitchen’ that I remember. But, the Worcestershire sauce was. This, along with catchup, was used to drown out the taste of whatever happened to pass for meat on any given day. You have to remember, on the battlefield, this was not gourmet beef served with a ‘Béchamel Sauce’ such as you describe…this was flour, reconstituted powdered milk, butter, margarine or lard (and often neither) with either chipped beef or ground beef thrown in. :-)

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