I can already hear you groaning. Does anybody still eat creamed dried beef (aka “chipped beef” or “s–t on a shingle”)? This was a childhood favorite of mine, and then I forgot about it for many years. And when I did think of it, I couldn’t stand the idea of all the salt and chemicals in it. But now I think that, like jerky, it’s making a comeback in some places, in less toxic renditions. Maybe even, dare I say, artisanal? It is, after all, similar to Italian bresaola, their version of air-dried beef. I just did a quick search and found this, which makes me think I should look for a better version at the Amish market in Kingston.
Whatever, a few years ago, I suddenly had a yen for this dish (maybe missing my mother, whose birthday is today?), and I just had to have some. But here’s what I did: I rinsed it. Yes, I put the beef (I think it comes in 2-ounce packets) in a strainer and rinsed it in cold tap water then patted it dry. That took care of much of the salt, at least. Then I roughly chop it and sauté in a tablespoon (or maybe 1½ Tbs.) of butter. Then I add a tablespoon or two of flour (same amount as butter), stir it until the flour is “fizzy” and turning golden, and then slowly stir in 1½ to 2 cups milk, usually 2%. Bring to a simmer and stir until thickened. I like plenty of black pepper in mine, but don’t add additional salt. I know many people have it on toast (the shingle), but I like biscuits, which are so much more interesting. An English muffin does nicely, too.
Can’t stomach the thought of commercial dried beef? Believe me, I understand (but wait and see what childhood foods you crave someday). The alternative you see here is basically the same thing made with loose sage breakfast sausage. Yes, I also love sausage and gravy, although I don’t have an egg with it the way a real breakfast trouper would. (I actually usually have these dishes at dinner.) Seems to me the meat and milk is enough protein as it is, so I try to cram in some salad or any leftover vegetable on the side. And, of course, it’s easier to find a less processed sausage than the dried beef; you can even find freshly made sausage at local farms that raise pigs. When I make this, I use the fat that results from sautéing the sausage in place of butter. Once the sausage is broken up and starting to brown, I add the flour, then the milk. These biscuits were from the freezer, from my little baking experiment last summer. They didn’t rise enough, really, so I will try again one of these days. Or just buy the excellent biscuits at The Gingered Peach (see photo below), although it would be a shame to drown those, so I keep that to the side (and add butter). I used to always use the biscuits that come in a tube, but they are so full of salt, I pretty much gave them up.
Now you know my dirty little secret for a comforting (and simple!) dinner or leisurely breakfast. By the way, either of these is excellent served over a baked sweet potato instead of bread – so there!