I first encountered the Hebrew word balagan in Saveur issue 137 where it was used to describe the state of peace in Israel and Palestine in recent years. Given the context, balagan means “hot mess”, a total debacle, a situation totally in shambles. Well, balagan – a freaking balagan, as a matter of fact – was pretty much how I described one recent day at work, seeing how I came home close to tears and just ready to throw in the towel or go throttle someone in a fit of rage.
Times like these are not for healthy eating, these are times for comfort eating – and bother those self-righteous fitness trippers who insist that you stick to salads and polystyrene-textured rice cakes. On days when the world is too much with you, your body demands substance to build up your strength, to stiffen your backbone against adversity, to put some heart back into you. Times like these, you need another hot mess to deal with the hot mess you’ve been put through.
Gravy on toast – a concoction of creamed chipped beef that has been known by several names including the nefarious-sounding “sh*t on a shingle” moniker it has gone by in the US Armed Forces – is one such comfort food. There is just something mindlessly comforting about good beef gravy slopped over hot toast: it sticks to your ribs, it soothes your wounded psyche, it helps you sleep better on nights when you feel your worries might keep you from getting forty winks and then some.
Trouble is, dried beef isn’t at all that common in my neck of the woods and I’ve pretty much turned my nose up at those namby-pamby loaves of white bread from the supermarket. That’s where a bit of improvisation comes in…
Instead of making standard-issue brown gravy, I whipped up a curry version of it with leftover meats from the fridge, a bit of potato, some onion, and a bit of milk. Once the hot mess was all cooked and fragrant, I went and sloshed it over a couple of slices of buttered whole-wheat toast. It was, to be perfectly honest, wonderful: the savory curry soaked into the nutty-tasting bread, the butter and meat adding richness, and the spuds adding heft. Needless to say, I slept quite well that night. Tomorrow was, after all, another day…
The Freaking Balagan
- 2 slices whole-grain bread
- butter for spreading
- 2 tablespoons minced onion
- 1/4 cup diced potato
- 1/4 cup chopped cooked meat (I used pork in mine, but cooked beef or chicken would also be nice)
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 3/4 cube Japanese curry roux
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup milk
Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened and fragrant. Add the potato and cook till the spud’s edges have browned. Add the meat and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the water; bring to a boil, then add the curry roux, mixing until it has dissolved. Add the milk and cook whilst stirring until thickened. Remove from the heat.
Toast the bread, buttering it generously afterwards. Place on a plate and pour the curry gravy over the toast. Serve immediately.