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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Cooking Adventure: Home Improvement - Chipped Beef on Toast (aka S.O.S.)

Let's take a trip down memory lane, shall we? I'm a 90's kid. Full House, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Tamagotchis, Tag, Sailor Moon, Captain Planet, Beanie Babies, Duck Tales, Steve Urkel, Bobby's World, Nintendo 64, Animaniacs, Pogs, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, only 150 Pokemon.. I could go on and on!

So why exactly are we stepping down this road of nostalgia? Well, before the show Last Man Standing, Tim Allen played the father figure in another popular TV sitcom, Home Improvement. It was a show about a tool-loving, hot rod-building, accident-prone manly man and his family and friends. One of my favorite episodes was when Tim and Jill (his wife) visited a Marine Corps base and had a tank driving competition. Jill, who grew up in an Army family, creamed Tim's erratic, golf cart-crushing butt. Rather than owning up to his terrible tank driving skills, Tim blamed Jill for humiliating him on the course. Of course, after speaking to Wilson (their wise, eccentric neighbor), Tim realized he was being a jerk and in the end, congratulated Jill for driving her tank so well.
Home Improvement - Tim and Jill eating Chipped Beef on Toast
I distinctly remember in this episode that Jill and Tim eat Chipped Beef on Toast while on the base. As a kid, I had no idea what it was or how to find a recipe for it, but the way Jill fondly referred to it and the comment Tim made about its unappealing appearance had me intrigued.
Home Improvement - Jill looking fondly at her Chipped Beef on Toast
Today (over a decade after the episodes originally aired!), I have the internet and Google at my disposal so after a bit of searching, I found that Chipped Beef on Toast was a traditional Army dish. It also goes by the name "S.O.S." or "Sh*t on a Shingle." The dish seemed simple enough - a bechamel sauce with chipped beef served on top of toast - so I decided to have a nostalgic culinary adventure that would satiate my 90's self.
Armour Dried Beef
First, I had to find myself some dried beef. I found Armour brand dried beef at my local Walmart so I settled for that. I thought it was a twist top like normal jars, but you actually have to pop the top with bottle opener.
Chopped Chipped Beef
The dried beef comes in thin slices so I chopped it up into diamond "chips." It's very salty right out of the jar so you need to soak or rinse the beef to re-hydrate it and get rid of some of the excess salt. It's always easier to add salt to a dish, but nearly impossible to save it if it's too salty.

So, without further ado, here's the recipe so you, too, can go down memory lane (assuming you were a 90's kid like me or grew up with a military background like Jill)!
Chipped Beef on Toast (S.O.S.)
Yield: about 3-4 servings

  • 1 jar dried beef, diced or sliced
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 4 Tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/4 cups milk, cold
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • 3-4 slices of bread, toasted
  1. Cut dried beef into slices or "chips" and soak or rinse with cold water to remove excess salt.
  2. Melt butter over medium-low heat.
  3. Whisk in flour to form a roux. Cook flour until it smells fragrant and nutty (almost like fresh baked pastry dough).
  4. Gradually whisk in cold milk. Turn heat to medium-high and stir sauce until thickened.
  5. Drain the dried beef and stir into sauce.
  6. Salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Spoon and serve on top of toast.
This Chipped Beef on Toast was fairly simple and straight forward. The sauce was buttery and rich, but seemed a little one-noted. I tried it both on honey wheat bread and rye bread and prefer it on rye. To spice it up, I would add some cayenne or paprika next time. I would also add some sauteed onion to add another dimension and more complexity to the sauce. But overall, this was a fun trip down memory lane. I can see how chipped beef would be comfort food for Jill. My inner 90's kid self would probably agree.

Until the next adventure...


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