S.O.S. (Sh*t on a Shingle) – A new Milennium Comfort Food Makeover


It’s time to begin the comfort food makeovers!  I mentioned that I would be doing so this year, and I’m not about to let Y’all down.

I know I can’t be the only one who grew up eating S.O.S., also known as “Creamed Beef on Toast”, or “Sh*t on a Shingle”.  As a kid it was one of my favorite dishes, since it was only made occasionally. (I don’t think my mother really liked it all that much, but my father did.)  I’m not sure if my liking for this dish stemmed more from the fact that I could usually manage to slip in one curse word without getting in too much trouble, or the fact that anything that included beef and cream is something I find strangely wondrous.

My mother’s version of SOS was always made using cream of celery soup (Yep, condensed, from a can.) Two pounds of hamburger, and maybe an onion or two tossed in for good measure.  Most of the recipes I’ve seen that use canned soup call for cream of mushroom, but my mother had issues digesting them, so they were never a staple in my childhood home.  The original recipe calls for neither celery or mushrooms, so I may have drifted completely off course with this update/remake, but I don’t think so.

I toyed with the idea of naming this dish “Chier sur un bardeau”, but why rename Sh*t on a shingle to the same thing in a different language?  It is what it is, a food staple that caught on in the U.S. (And England as well, I believe.) during the first and second world wars and the great depression.  Inexpensive, filling and at least somewhat tasty.  It provided a lot of sustenance for very little money, and gave the family something hot and satisfying to share around their table. In that respect, SOS is comfort food at its very best.

For me, it’s a reminder of a different era, time spent with my mother and sister in the kitchen, and the good and bad times that followed.   In short, even though this is an updated version of the original, it takes me home.  It’s also quite messy, which makes for giggles at my current table, where my wife and I try not to get too much of the sauce on our faces!

Enjoy everyone!

S.O.S. (Sh*t on a Shingle) - A new Milennium Comfort Food Makeover
  • 1 small loaf french bread, cut in 1/2? slices.
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • 1/2 lb. ground beef
  • 1/2 lb. ground pork
  • 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 oz. button or crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 3.5 oz. shitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp. sour cream
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  1. Preheat oven to 375°
  2. Arrange bread slices on a half-sheet pan or large cookie sheet. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle generous amounts of onion and garlic powder over the top. Bake at 375° until top is golden, flip and brush other side of bread with olive oil. Return to oven until the bread is golden brown and crisp. (About 7 minutes total.) Remove from heat and set aside. May be served hot or cold, works perfectly as a crouton for salads or soups, or as base for a crostini.
  1. Brown ground beef and ground pork in a large skillet over medium to medium high heat. Once all meat is well browned, transfer to colander to drain. (Do this over a large bowl to catch any drippings. You don’t want them in your drains.)
  2. Wipe skillet clean with a paper towel, add 2 tbsp olive oil and reheat. Add onions and cook until unions are sift and just translucent. Add garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring frequently to avoid burning. Add shitake mushrooms, cook for 1 minute, then add button mushrooms. Continue cooking vegetable mixture until mushrooms are golden.
  3. Season vegetable mixture with salt and pepper. (Doing this before cooking the mushrooms would significantly lengthen browning time.) Return ground meat to pan and stir to distribute all ingredients. Sprinkle flour over mixture and stir well to distribute and coat pieces evenly. (about 1 minute or until the flour smells nutty.)
  4. Add milk and sour cream, and Worcestershire sauce, stirring constantly until liquids are just below a boil. (Do not let the milk boil. If you do, it will separate and curdle. Definitely not a good thing.) Remove from heat, test for seasoning.
  5. Serve approximately one tbsp of mixture per slice of toast.


What I would have done differently had I thought of it at the time:

I think a little Pecorino  Romano sprinkled over the top would be a nice addition, as would a bit of fresh parsley mixed in the sauce at the last minute for freshness.

Links to other recipes like this:

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  1. says

    My father used to make this, but I hadn’t heard of it for years until I wrote an article about a diner in Newport, RI, adjacent to the naval base. There was SOS, proudly on the menu!

  2. Chris says

    SOS was something that showed up on our table growing up as well Jerry. I loved it as a kid, but not sure I’d like to revisit it now… Your post made me laugh though, thanks!

  3. Jerry says

    this ain’t yer mom’s SOS, LOL! More of a stroganoff than a beef gravy affair. With the super crunchy crostini… Fabulous!

    Now you’ve got me all depressed! They never served us SOS when I was in the Navy! Just completely overcooked steak. (A shame, really. They started out as very nice New York Strip, but whatever the MS’s did to them, they never ended up that way!)

  4. kellypea says

    Excellent, Jerry. Saw an updated version of this in Saveur this past month and have it tagged to give it a go because it was something my mother made, too. She used chipped beef that came in a little glass (Armour?)that ended up in our cupboard, and made her own white sauce, then threw some frozen peas into it. Yours looks quite tasty. I’m sure the huzbink would be salivating if he saw this…My dad was in the navy and he’s the one that used to call it sh*t on a shingle. Hilarious!

  5. Jerry says

    My Father was former Air Force, that’s what he called it. My mother always just shook her head.

    Aversions are fine things. Most recipes calling for pork can be made pretty close to the original if you know what to substitute. (Turkey has a similar texture, but requires some brining to get some of the intense “turkey” flavor out, then substitutes quite well!)

  6. doggy says

    My kids love shit on a shingle. However, the shingle has been replaced with mashed potatoes.

    The white sauce is now real white sauce, butter, milk and wondra. The meet is dried beef, and I throw in peas because I love them.

    It’s an easy favorite round here, but the shingle has turned into a cloud. So shit on a cloud.

    Doggy do

  7. William R. York says

    Wow! This brings back a lot of memories. I am an Air Force Brat, and I made Creamed Beef on Toast AKA “SOS_AKA_ SHIT ON A SHINGLE” every Saturday night when my Mom and Dad would go to the NCO Club. My version was just ground beef with onion and mushrooms (canned) and a sauce/gravy made from flour, seasonings, and gravy browning. Instead of toast thou, I substituted a large baked potato. I would remove the center area then pour the finished creamed beef into the cavity and top with the removed potato wedge. Then I would add some shredded cheese and put in the oven for five minutes under the broil setting. Sometimes I would add a little chive, butter, and sour cream into the sauce or on the potato before putting the creamed beef on. I suggest that substituting a baked potato would liven up this old military mess hall tradition.
    A good addition is a vegetable-pilaf made with a mixture of corn, diced tomatoes, sweet red, yellow, and green bell peppers and onion mixed with some crispy bread crumbs and finely shredded parmesan cheese and baked. I am including the recipe below.

    Baked Corn Salad
    Main Ingredients
    2 cups cooked corn
    2 cups diced tomatoes
    1 cup diced onion (red, green, or other)
    1 cup each diced sweet green, red, and yellow bell pepper
    1 ½ cups crispy bread crumbs
    1 cup finely shredded parmesan cheese
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 ½ teaspoon coarse black pepper and/or white pepper
    3 tablespoons sweet vinaigrette or Italian dressing
    3 teaspoon brown sugar (Sweet and Low has a brown sugar subs.)
    3 tablespoons butter
    3 tablespoons Durkee Famous Sauce or Ranch dressing

    1. Lightly sauté all ingredients except the cheese, in a pan using PAM or your choice of, butter/margarine for 5-10 minutes at medium heat.
    2. Mix all seasonings with the corn, peppers, onion mixture, and cheese and bread crumbs, then spoon into a greased baking dish.
    3. Bake in oven at between 275-300 degrees f. for one-half hour.
    Can be served as a side-dish or over rice with meat.

  8. says

    What a fun idea! My mom’s version of this was tuna with cream of mushroom soup (Campbell’s condensed, of course). To this day, I actually kinda like that, once in blue moon…

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