October 14, 2010

Comfort Food Classic: Creamed Dried Beef

This is a recipe I remember from my childhood.  The combination of the salty, lean, dried beef, a creamy white sauce and the crispness of the bottom layer of toast is one that's almost irresistable when the weather starts to turn cold.  This recipe is a fairly generous double serving.

Creamed Dried Beef
4 tablespoons    butter
4 tablespoons    flour
¼ teaspoon        salt
¼ teaspoon        coarsely ground black pepper
2 cups               milk
2.5 ounces        dried beef
4 slices             bread

1.  First, make a white sauce:  Melt the butter in a medium size saucepan, then blend in the flour, salt and pepper.  Cook over low heat, stirring continually, until the mixture gets very smooth and starts to bubble.  Remove the pan from heat and slowly stir in the milk.  Then return to the stove and slowly heat back up to nearly boiling, stirring constantly.  Seriously, don't stop stirring or get distracted with anything else!  The minute you turn your back on white sauce, it will either decide to burn on the bottom, or boil over.  Let the sauce boil for a minute, and remove from the heat.

2.  Use your fingers to tear the slices of dried beef directly into the white sauce and stir together.  Return the pan to the burner, and turn the heat to low.

3.  While the dried beef is warming up in the white sauce (keep stirring), toast 4 slices of bread and cut each slice into 9 bites, like a tic-tac-toe board.  Put 2 slices' worth of toast bites on each plate, and ladle the creamed dried beef on top.

I always buy dried beef processed by Ulrich's meat market in Pella, Iowa.  Quite a few grocery stores in our area carry Ulrich's pre-packaged dried beef in their deli meat section.  Any brand will do, though.

For an even more comforting version of the recipe, use whole milk.  If you're accustomed to drinking skim milk like we are, the whole milk will seem just as good as cream!

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