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)
- 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
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.