Between the Great Depression, when few people around America had the money for fresh steaks or many other cuts of beef, or World War II when there was a shortage of fresh beef to be found, canned dried beef, so often used for chipped beef over toast, got a bad rap.

During the Depression, homemakers were encouraged to buy dried beef and mix it with some flour and milk to serve over toasted white bread. It was a very economical dish that went a long way in serving a family. Then, chipped beef was a staple during World War II, particularly for soldiers who were served chipped beef many nights in a row and gave it unprintable, unappetizing names.

I consider chipped beef a comfort food, though, and I'm not ashamed to say it. On Sundays, after a big midday dinner, my mother would always serve something very simple for supper. Sometime in the 1970s, she served chipped beef over homemade biscuits for the first time and it became a staple on our Sunday-night menus. I'm sure it was a lot tastier than what the soldiers ate in World War II, and with the addition of peas, it was reinvented into a dish with a little more color and nutritive value.

Chipped beef is an entrée that can be whipped up quickly, and I've enjoyed making it with fresh peas from my garden each year.

The creamy white sauce rehydrates the thin slices of dried beef, a pinch of black pepper gives this simplistic recipe a little depth of flavor, and green peas add color and a nice little crunch.

Serve it over thick slices of Texas toast or buttermilk biscuits, add a fruit salad, and it's perfect for an occasional weeknight meal or addition to your weekend brunch menu.


Chipped Beef

Adding beautiful green peas to this classic chipped beef adds color and a nice little crunch.

4 tablespoons butter

1/3 cup flour

3 cups whole or evaporated milk

1 teaspoon black pepper

4 1/2 ounces dried beef, cut into strips

1 cup green peas, fresh or frozen, thawed but not cooked

Texas toast or biscuits

Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat until slightly bubbling. Stir in flour, then add whole milk, whisking until flour is completely incorporated. Stir constantly until the sauce has thickened.

Add pepper and strips of dried beef to sauce mixture, stirring until pepper is incorporated and beef is evenly coated. Stir in peas until they are warm. Don't overcook in order to keep the peas from becoming mushy. Spoon over Texas toast or split biscuit; serve warm.

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