From the annals of Jose Mier’s kitchen comes a Depression-era dish that earns a special place in cooking history. If you don’t know what the SOS stands for in regard to this dish, better ask your grandmother. Let’s just say it was a colorful name and leave it at that.
While I’m on this Depression-era kick I thought I should give a shout out to one of the most iconic dishes of that time: Creamed Chipped Beef on Toast.
During the Depression years, dried beef was a popular substitute for the fresh stuff and cooks found new ways of using this to stretch thin food budgets. The food became so popular it made its way into the armed forces (probably where it earned its colorful nickname) and you can see and hear references to it in several movies.
Those films and its reputation as something unappetizing are a bit unfair. Admittedly it’s not the kind of thing that lends itself to great food photography or presentation on a plate but that wasn’t the goal at the time. It was to eat and this dish is simple and satisfying. It’s basically comfort food.
There’s a beauty in its simplicity though. Dried beef, a creamy gravy to moisten things all held up on the pedestal of toast. What’s in it (aside from the beef)? The sauce is basically a roux (flour browned in butter) with some milk to make the gravy. Add the beef, pile it atop a slice of toasted bread and voila! Done.
Today’s cooks (if they dare) could learn a lesson from our Depression-era ancestors about simplicity and ease. I daresay something like this is also a quick meal for pressed-for-time cooks in today’s busy lifestyles. It’s a no-frills dish but that doesn’t mean we can’t dress it up with a colorful side of vegetables, a salad or another side dish to round out the plate for serving. At 20 minutes for preparation it takes a lot of worry out of what’s for dinner.
The recipe (found here) is so simple I even hesitate to include a video on this page but we live in a visual age so here you go! Try it. I can almost guarantee you’ll love it.
Looking to sample this dish in the Los Angeles area? I hazard to say you won’t find it anywhere except maybe the mess hall for the nearest branch of the armed forced. Near me in Sun Valley, CA that’s the National Guard at 3800 Valhalla Dr, Burbank, CA 91505. If they ask what you’re there for tell them Jose Mier recommended the SOS!