The earliest written record I can find of this dish dates back to an Army cookbook of 1910. It was essentially dried chipped beef and bechamel served over toast. There was a time in history that many demanded meat in some form with every meal, so many ways of extending and preserving meat were created to keep the soldiers happy.
While this dish is often joked about, it was very much loved and as a result make it’s way stateside with multiple variations made during the depression and beyond. I had it when I was a kid although my mother called it ‘creamed chipped beef over toast’. I doubt she has ever uttered the word shit. In the Navy they made a version that included some vegetables and served it over mashed potatoes, thus removing the shingle and leading to a different set of jokes.
It is at its essence comfort food. And we could all use a little comfort right now.
We begin with a basic bechamel sauce. (Once you master this you have the base for Macaroni and cheese and a host of other dishes, if you made the biscuits and gravy you have already made a version of bechamel)
5 tablespoons butter (lard or other fats can be used)
1/4 cup white flour
Cook the flour in the butter until it reaches a golden or tan color stirring constantly. About 5 to 7 minutes of cooking time at a medium heat.
1 quart milk
2 teaspoons salt
Freshly grated nutmeg
Turn heat to the lowest possible setting and begin work on the rest of the dish. My version is not the most common but I think it is the most delicious, but variations will be discussed. This will give you 4 good portions.
1 cup walnuts
Butter and oil
Saute the washed and sliced leeks in the butter/oil mix until they cook down, begin to caramelize and smell like heaven. Then add a touch more butter and toast the walnuts alongside the leaks. Divide into 4 portions and spoon over toast or mashed potatoes covering with the bechamel sauce and if you have some goat cheese in the house, sprinkle some goat cheese crumbled over the top along with chives or green onions. To my taste this beats the chipped beef by a mile but you can also use….
Mushrooms sauteed in butter
1 pound any ground meat
1 small fish filet per person
Fresh or canned tomatoes
Or any warmed leftovers you have in the house.
Or of course…..chipped beef or other packet preserved meat.
It is warming, filling and good for a laugh.