Sunday, October 3, 2010

SOS - Sh!t on a Sh!ngle

When I picture an Army chow line, I see a bunch of rough and tumble men in OD green with a section tray in hand.  A crusty Mess Officer slaps a couple of pieces of dry toast on their tray and plops a spoonful of creamed chipped beef on top . . . SOS . . . more politely (or not so much) crap on crust.  Of course, all the men are pissing and moaning over the wretched meal . . . but . . . I love it.  It’s a comfort food from way back and I’m pretty sure I could eat it almost every day. 
Chipped (dried) beef is simply sections of meat that has been thinly sliced and cured or dried.  Like beef jerky, chipped beef can be stored for a long time.  It’s a good source of lean protein and does not need to be refrigerated.   You can purchase chipped beef canned or in sealed pouches. 

Mixed into a thick white sauce, chipped beef makes a hearty and satisfying main dish served over rice or biscuits or, my favorite, white toast.

Making your own dried beef is simple with either an oven or dehydrator.

Slice a lean beef roast into ¼ inch strips.  The meat will be easier to slice if it is slightly frozen. 

Lay the slices of beef in a single layer on the dehydrator trays.  Sprinkle with curing salt – you can add smoke flavoring if you like.  Dry the meat on the highest setting for 4 - 8  hours.  Check frequently after 4 hours to make sure the meat doesn’t over dry and become crisp.  It’s done when the meat bends but doesn’t break without effort.

If you’re drying the beef in the oven, the strips in a single layer on a rack that fits a shallow roasting pan.  Turn the oven on at the lowest possible setting. On most electric stoves, this will be approximately 170 degrees. For a gas stove, the heat from the pilot light will probably generate enough heat.  Place the baking pan in the oven for 12 hours or overnight.  Remove from the oven and quickly turn each slice of meat over. Return to the oven for another 6 to 12 hours.
Now that you’ve spent all this time drying your meat you can now make creamed chipped beef on toast which takes only a fraction of the time it took to dry the meat.

What you need:
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 2 Tablespoons All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/2 Cups Warm Milk
  • 8 Ounces Dried Beef
  • 1 Pinch Cayenne Pepper 
Soak the dried beef in milk or water for 30 minutes to soften it. 

In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Whisk in flour all at once to form a roux. Whisk in milk, a little at a time, increase heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring, until thickened. Bring to a boil, stir in beef and cayenne, heat through and serve over toast.

Simple and delicious.  A perfect fall or winter meal.

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