No rabbits were harmed in the making of this dish, however the Welsh were insulted. Historical Foods provides a bit of history and sums it up nicely with the following;
the name probably originates in the 18th century as an English insult to the Welsh; while rabbit was a poor man’s meat in England, in Wales the poorer man’s “meat” was cheese…
Variations on Welsh Rarebit go back to the first written recipes, and all through culinary history it can be seen in all the regions of Britain; however, it probably predates the medieval period by a considerable amount.
In the simplest terms Welsh Rarebit is toast with a cheese sauce. While being a fairly simple, quick, and easy to make dish with pretty straight forward ingredients it has a rather complex, if not slightly bold flavor. Well beyond a basic grilled cheese sandwich.
Being rather simple it makes for a good savory snack or part of a light meal. Although sometimes I make it as part of a more “formal” meal. When I want another savory dish, but don’t necessarily want another meat dish (it is vegetarian after all). Besides the infrequency of its appearance and, by American standards, the unusual nature of its name makes for conversation if nothing else.
- 1 1/2 oz. butter
- 1 T flour
- 1/2 c. of good ale
- 8 oz. grated sharp cheddar
- 2 t. fine ground English mustard
- 1 t. worcestershire sauce (optional)
- salt and pepper
- 4 large slices of buttered toast
- In a sauce pan over medium heat melt the butter, stir in the flour and cook for three or four minutes, stirring constantly. Slowly add the ale, whisking vigorously to form a smooth sauce.
- Turn the heat to low add the cheese, mustard, worcestershire sauce (if using), and salt and pepper (to taste). Stir over low heat until you have a smooth sauce, if too thick add more ale (drink the rest), it too thin cook down a bit.
- Toast 4 large slices of bread and butter one side. Put the toast, butter side down, in a heat proof dish (as in something that can go under the broiler) pour cheese sauce over the toast and put under the broiler. Broil until the cheese sauce is brown and bubbly. Serve at once.