Friday, January 22, 2010

Welsh Rabbit - all the cheese, none of the bunny fur!

The rain is still coming down in Los Angeles, and my poor dog is terrified of thunder and wind - both of which we seem to have an endless supply of at the moment.  Did you hear we've had tornados?  Time for comfort food.

To mix things up a little, how about Welsh Rabbit?  Also known as Welsh Rarebit, it's basically cheese sauce on toast, but it's so much more!  There are many legends associated with this simple fare.  1) When my mom used to make it when I was a kid, I just thought that we were eating the vegetarian version, and that the glamorous Welsh used to have chunks of rabbit in their cheese sauce.  2) According to Mick, the British proprietor of our favorite local cafe, the name is a total slur on the Welsh, who the English perceive as inferior due to their coal mines and propensity for words with too many w's, and y's (see Aberystwyth).  His version contends that the Welsh were so poor, that they couldn't even afford rabbit - which used to be one of the cheapest proteins available.  They were so poor, they could only afford cheese and bread.  3) Another version says that Welsh rabbit hunters, after a successful rabbit hunt, would eat this fortified cheese toast upon returning home - thereby negating Mick's version of the legend.  4) Of course, there is another version where unsuccessful Welsh rabbit hunters have to eat cheese toast because they aren't very good hunters.  5) A really twisted version claims that a Welsh chef tried to pass off cheese toast as rabbit to unsophisticated Welsh diners.  While I have actually never eaten rabbit, I might argue that melty cheese toast is easier to prepare and perhaps tastier than rabbit.  Also, since Darling Husband is 50% Welsh, I'm not allowed to be to antagonistic toward  this noble people.

Legend aside, it is a perfect meal for a cold winter night.  Here's a recipe for Welsh Rabbit from Laura Werlin's fantastic book The New American Cheese:

Melt 2 Tbsp butter over medium heat in a medium size saucepan.
Add 3 Tbsp flour and stir for 1 minute
Add 1/2 cup beer and stir until the bubbles start to cook out, about 30 seconds
     (I would suggest a more flavorful, darker beer.  Alternately, my mom used milk.  Less body, but better for kids...)
Add 6-7 ounces of grated cheddar cheese, 2 tsp Worcestershire, 1/2 tsp dry mustard and a dash of cayenne.

Stir constantly until the cheese melts.

Toast up 4 thick slices of substantial bread (Wonderbread will not work!)

Toast on plate, cheese sauce on toast.  If you're trying to eat veggies with all your meals, add a tomato.

*You can always try other cheeses - whatever you have.  Try Gouda or Emmenthaler for some happy melting.  A little fortified Sherry could be tasty too.  If you use white cheese, a little Paprika would add color. a tablespoon of Dijon mustard could be a nice alternate if you don't have any dry mustard in the house.

That's it!  Easy enough for a Welshman to do it.

Sweet dreams!  May your dreams be full of cheese and sweet bouncing bunnies!


  1. Hmmm....I have an annoying tendency to steal hubby's wine for the purpose of making dinner. I hadn't thought to look at the beer as well.

  2. Cooking with beer is great! It's great with cheese (obviously), and I've also had success putting it in spaghetti sauce and deglazing onions after they've been sauteed for whatever. No booze is safe in my house!