This easy-to-make dish comes from Depression cooking, where a little meat could be stretched to feed & fill up a lot of people, and from the United States military, for the same reason. As a Navy Brat born to Depression Era parents, it's a given that this dish would be on our table!
If you prefer the Chipped Beef version, cut the dry beef into small pieces. Make a roux from butter, flour, and milk, then add the chipped beef pieces after it thickens.
For those who weren't military brats, the SOS stands for "S--- On a Shingle" OR "Same Old S---." Bet you can figure it out! =^..^=
Brown ground beef in a large skillet, stirring often. Do NOT drain.
WARNING: Product Endorsement. I love my ChopStir when I'm cooking ground beef! It's the best kitchen gadget EVER! (OK, I'm finished.)
Sprinkle the flour over the ground beef and stir for about 5 minutes, which will lightly brown the flour and soak up the grease.
Now, it's time to add the cold liquids. I personally use about 3 cups of milk & 1 cup of cold water, but this is a personal decision. If I'm low on milk, I just make up the difference in cold water. No one has ever noticed yet. =^..^=
So add the liquids and stir well.
Add salt & pepper, if desired. Continue cooking the gravy for a few more minutes until it thickens to your desired consistency.
If it's too thin, cook it longer.
If it's too thick, add a little more cold liquid.
Serve over slices of toast (the "shingles" of SOS fame; see note above) and/or mashed potatoes.
Or skip the knife and tear up the toast pieces before adding the gravy. Just keeping it simple, right? =^..^=