Tuesday, May 10, 2016

TH Cooks: Creamed Chipped Beef

Call it SOS at your own peril; this stuff is GOOD
Photo Credit: TH
Creamed chipped beef is a staple if you're one of two people: military adjacent or a native of Pennsylvania. Its nickname, "shit on a shingle," is far from flattering. I don't know how well it usually gets made in army mess halls to get that name, but it's not a diner staple in the Philadelphia area because it tastes bad. When made right, creamed chipped beef is a hearty, creamy, delicious breakfast. In fact, it's like sawmill or country gravy, only with tangy, salty beef in it. You can also put it on nearly anything: toast, home fries/hash browns, waffles, or my personal favorite, donuts. However, the biscuit is probably the most appropriate means of conveyance.

Basically, creamed chipped beef is a bechamel-type sauce with dried beef in it. Where can one procure dried beef? Supermarkets around here have it. They may also have it where you live. If not, head to your local butcher, who may have some. If not, well, then if you're feeling frisky and have the disposable income, buy some online. They sell everything online nowadays, right? Anyway, once you have procured your dried beef and are ready to cook, the first thing you want to do is chop the beef. You don't want huge pieces of beef in your pot. After all, it's called creamed chipped beef. You can either chop with a knife or you can chip it by hand by pulling it apart if you want to get your hands beefy. Set the beef aside.

The next thing you wanna do make yourself a blonde roux, which is equal parts butter and flour cooked until it's lightly golden. After that, add in milk. How much of each? Well, it depends on how much dried beef you have and how thick you want it. My parents' recipe, which is what I grew up eating, is very thin. They use only four tablespoons of butter and flour apiece to a half-gallon of milk for a half-pound of beef. Diner creamed chipped beef is much thicker, so I used two sticks of butter and a cup of flour for a half-gallon of milk for my half-pound. Make it as thick or thin as you'd like. Also, use unsalted butter. The meat is salty enough, and if you use salted butter, you're going to get a sodium bomb in your mouth. Then again, if you like that kind of thing, by all means, use the salty butter. I just advise against it.

Anyway, once the milk and roux are a uniform liquid, add the beef and stir. Then add a quarter teaspoon of the following spices apiece: garlic powder, ground mustard, and nutmeg. Then add salt and black pepper to taste. Again, the beef itself is salty, so don't add too much salt unless you like a sodium bomb. Cook it over medium heat uncovered until it starts to bubble and rise. Then turn it down to low and let it simmer and reduce. After your biscuits or toast or whatever is ready, ladle the stuff over liberally and enjoy. If you make it right, you won't ever call it shit on a shingle ever again.