Confessions of a rarebit fiend, as follows. “I confess that I love Welsh Rarebit, and you will love this simple and delicious dish too!“

Welsh Rarebit (Rabbit) is a traditional British dish and has long been associated with Welsh cuisine. Welsh rarebit consists of a sauce of melted cheese served over toast points. However, that description does not do it justice.

Many people have heard of Welsh Rarebit, or have heard of it on TV shows, or mentioned in films but have never had it. This is a shame as it’s possibly one of the nicest comfort foods you can make for yourself. I blame this on the notion that sauces are hard to make. They simply are not. Too many people are scared of making sauces and this is a shame as we miss much in our cuisine as a result of this SauceO’Phobia.

Anyone who loves a good Mac and Cheese, Grilled Cheese, or even nachos can wrap their heads around this dish. It’s basically Toast, with some cheese melted over it. Originally in Britain, a simple dish called “Toasted Cheese” was cheese melted near a heat source on a toasted piece of bread. This recipe is taking that concept and making it a bit nicer.

If you want a nice late-night snack or a light meal for a few people (this would be hard to make for a crowd) then give this recipe a try and see what you think. You can also jazz this up (Try making it first) with a poached egg (see photo above) or some sauteed mushrooms or crumbled bacon.

  • Welsh rarebit is typically made with Cheddar cheese, in contrast to the Continental European fondue which classically depends on Swiss cheeses.
  • Dream of the Rarebit Fiend is a newspaper comic strip by American cartoonist Winsor McCay. The strip had no continuity or recurring characters, but a recurring theme: a character has a nightmare or other bizarre dream, usually after eating a Welsh rarebit — a cheese-on-toast dish.
  • The word rarebit is a corruption of rabbit, “Welsh rabbit” being first recorded in 1725 and the variant “Welsh rarebit” is first recorded in 1785 by Francis Grose. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, ‘Welsh rarebit’ is an “etymologizing alteration. There is no evidence of the independent use of rarebit”.
  • September 3rd is National Welsh Rarebit Day.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup white wine *1Note

3/4 cup heavy cream

6 ounces (approximately 1 1/2 cups) shredded Cheddar Cheese. *2 Note

4 slices toasted homestyle bread. *3 Note

Method:

Turn on the broiler in the oven. Ready two Oven Proof Plates.

In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Cook, whisking constantly for 2 to 3 minutes, being careful not to brown the flour. You are making a roux, so be careful not to scorch it.

Whisk in the mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper until smooth. Add wine and whisk all to combine. Pour in the heavy cream and whisk all until well combined and smooth. (I sometimes use a rubber spatula instead.) Gradually add cheese, stirring constantly, until cheese melts and sauce is smooth. Pour the cheese sauce over the toast (on an ovenproof plate) and place in broiler. Broil for just a few minutes until bubbly and slightly browned. Serve this with a bit of salad, some frisee (endive) or spinach tossed in a vinaigrette, a few cornichons, Olives, some apple slices, or nothing at all. This dish pairs with a Chardonnay, Pino Grigio, Reisling, or a good Beer or Stout.

Note *1 I have used white wine in this, as this is how I cook it. I’m aware that many recipes for this dish have used Beer in it. I like the addition of wine in this, but you can use beer if you like, any type that you enjoy drinking will do. Port can also be used as well. If you want to do none of these things, a good broth will do. Pick the kind of broth that you feel best suits this dish and your sensibilities. It’s important to keep in mind that this dish is based on a bunch of odds and ends around the hours, it’s not something you would shop for, it’s made with what you have on hand.

Note *2 It’s in my opinion that most people eat crap cheese. Americans have this tendency to buy supermarket cheese that says “Cheddar” or worse yet, the abomination that is “American Cheese” (Yes, I know it’s good on a hamburger but that’s not the point.) Good cheese can be had, and it’s worth the price. For a few dollars more in most cases, you can buy quality cheese that’s either local or imported and worth your time. There are many quality Cheddars being imported from the British Isles and also Australia and New Zealand. I like Dubliner and it’s always a go-to for me, and I always have a large block of aged Tillamook cheddar in the fridge. Choose a brand you like best or try something new. A nice Horseradish Cheddar or Bacon Cheddar would also be fun.

Note *3 While this is a recipe for using up odds and ends, I want to urge you to try and use this with some good quality bread. Failing that, any sort of toast, English muffin or biscuits would do just as well. If one had a mind, you could always go Keto (?) and serve it over steamed cauliflower. I personally like this over toasted slices of Pain Au Levain that I make myself.

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References and suggested reading.

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Photo taken by Brian Edwards at the Mechanics Institute Library in San Francisco

Dean Jones is a Librarian, Cookbook Reviewer, and writer. Originally from San Diego and having lived his teen years in the Pacific Northwest, Dean has lived for over 20 years in the wonderful but barely affordable San Francisco Bay Area. Dean has graduated with an MLIS from the University of North Texas and has a BA in Liberal Studies from JFK University in the Bay Area. Dean is the Library Director for Hurwich Library in the San Francisco Bay Area. Dean can be seen at Book Festivals, Library field trips with the BayNet Libraries Group of which he the Vice President. He can also be seen haunting farmers’ markets, bookstores, and local restaurants. Dean lives in the SF Bay Area with his lovely wife (also a Librarian) their six kids and a whole lot of books. Dean has been a contributor for to “One Table One World” and newly “The Cookbook for All” — Contact Dean at wellseasonedlibrarian@gmail.com

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