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~ Say Cheese Please: Making Perfect Welsh Rarebit ~

IMG_3073Welsh rarebit -- the original cheese toast.  It's worth mention that I've only eaten what I believe to be the real-deal once.  It was in the latter 1990's, in Wales, in the exquisite Coed-Y-Mwstwr Hotel (coy-dee-moo-ster).   It came to me as a complimentary side to a lovely salad (which I ordered after returning from shopping in the city of Cardiff).  The cheese toast, along with everything else in this hotel, was perfect.  I kicked off my high-heels and enjoyed it in my lavish room, overlooking the How-Green-was-My-Valley countryside, with a very English G&T too.

I gave cheese toast a lot more thought after that trip.  

IMG_3077Welsh rarebit or rabbit = molten cheese on toast. 

Welsh rarebit (pronounced rabbit) is a traditional British dish made by ladling a thickened, sometimes roux-based, cheese sauce over crustless, thick-sliced ever-so-slightly-toasted bread, then quickly broiling the two until the sauce is bubbling and barely-light-golden.  Basic rarebit sauce is made by melting a hard English cheese (like cheddar, gloucester, cheshire or lancashire) with cayenne pepper, English mustard, a splash of Worcestershire sauce, milk and beer.  Another, easier (cheaters) method, it to simply melt sliced cheese atop lightly-toasted bread that has been slathered with mixture of softened butter, mustard, Worcestershire and cayenne pepper. 

Welsh rabbit is the original name, and, the dish is Welsh in origin, dating back to the 1700's.  The Welsh, who are famous for their love of cheese, claim to be among the first to use cheese in various dishes and sauces.  In their food world, the original name, rabbit, was an affectionate way to say, "we prefer eating cheese to eating rabbit".  In their real world, Wales was an impoverished nation and many a Welshman couldn't afford even the cheapest meat.  Others claim the original name, after making its way into English kitchens, was meant to cast aspersions on the Welsh, who were allegedly not adept at catching rabbits -- and "rabbit" changed to "rarebit" spurred by the need for political correctness.  Still others claim the Welsh peasants, who weren't allowed to eat the rabbits caught during the hunts on the estates of the nobles, eating melted cheese and bread as a substitute, named the dish.  Culinary authorities, like Auguste Escoffier, say the spelling was changed from "rabbit" to "rarebit" merely to emphasize it not being a meat dish.

IMG_29932  tablespoons salted butter

2  tablespoons flour

1   teaspoon dry English mustard

1  teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2  teaspoon onion salt

1/4  teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2  cup milk

1/2  cup beer, your favorite brand 

1 1/4  cups shredded yellow cheddar cheese

1/2"-thick slices brioche-type bread*, preferably my recipe for bread machine brioche

*Note:  Ordinary soft, white sandwich bread will not work in this recipe.  Prior to toasting and broiling, the bread needs to be firm enough to hold the weight of the cheese and not get soggy.

IMG_2995 IMG_2995 IMG_2995~ Step 1.  In a 1-cup measuring container, combine the milk, beer and Worcestershire sauce.  Set aside.  Place the flour in a small bowl and add the dry English mustard, onion salt and cayenne pepper.  Set aside.

IMG_3006 IMG_3006 IMG_3006 IMG_3006 IMG_3015 IMG_3015 IMG_3015 IMG_3015 IMG_3015 IMG_3015~Step 2.  Melt the butter in a 1 1/2-quart saucepan over low heat.  Add the flour and spices.  Whisk constantly for 1 full minute.  Add the milk mixture. Adjust heat to simmer. Whisk constantly until nicely-thickened, about 3 minutes.  Turn the heat off and add the cheese. Whisk until cheese is melted and a thick, drizzly sauce has formed.  

IMG_3038~ Step 3.  Remove from heat.  There will be 1 1/2 cups of cheese sauce. Use immediately to make classic Welsh rarebit (as directed below), or, a Welsh rarebit fondue.  Cheese sauce can be made a day or three ahead, covered, and kept stored in the refrigerator.  Reheat gently in the microwave or on the stovetop, stirring frequently.  Do not freeze.

IMG_3039 IMG_3039 IMG_3039 IMG_3039 IMG_3039 IMG_3039~Step 4.  For each serving of classic Welsh rarebit, from the loaf of brioche, cut two 1/2"-thick slices of bread, then, trim the crust.  Ever-so-lightly-toast the bread.  Remove bread from toaster and place on a baking pan that has been lined with parchment.  Place and spread two tablespoons of the rarebit sauce over the surface of each slice, stopping just short of the edges.  Place pan on a rack positioned 5" underneath the broiler and cook until bubbly, about 3 minutes.  Garnish with minced parsley or chives.

Serve ASAP -- while hot & bubbling.

IMG_3078Pick up a knife & stick a fork in it:

IMG_3085Say Cheese Please:  Making Perfect Welsh Rarebit:  Recipe yields 1 1/2 cups Welsh rarebit sauce, enough to coat 12 standard-sized slices bread.

Special Equipment List:  hand-held box grater; 1-cup measuring container; 1 1/2-quart saucepan; whisk; cutting board; serrated bread knife; appropriately-sized baking pan; parchment paper

6a0120a8551282970b019aff73c661970bCook's Note:  Cheddar cheese sauce in general is really easy to make.  It only takes about five minutes, so please refrain from purchasing the store-bought glop. Even though I don't think vegetables need any livening up, it was one of my secret weapons to get our boys to eat their veggies.  Try ~ My Basic Cheddar Cheese Sauce for Vegetables ~.  This recipe is kid tested and mother approved.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti


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