It looks a little rabbit-y, doesn't it?

Eva: Oh, I’ll blog about Welsh rarebit. I’ve even had it before.

Deanna: Rarebit? I thought it said rabbit!

Actually, folks, it’s called both rarebit and rabbit. The origins of Welsh rarebit, it’s said, are in the peasantry. In England, the poor could at least trap and eat rabbit. In Wales, the poor ate cheese and called it rabbit. At least, that’s the legend.

Another legend tells it that the Welsh preferred the cheese to the rabbit. Especially gooey melty cheese.

A quick look through the internet shows that people take their rarebit (or rabbit) quite seriously. I have to say, I find it ironic that a lot of those people refer to Welsh rarebit as a quintessentially British food.

That’s right. Take credit for the creations of the conquered.

Or were they? In 1997, five centuries or more after they were “decisively” conquered, Wales finally voted for itself a modicum of independence from HMQ, in the form of the National Assembly of Wales. Good on ‘em.

I’m just sayin’, calling Welsh rarebit “traditionally British” is a bit of a stretch and all.

Did I mention that everyone has a take on rarebit? There seem to be two base versions with about a zillion bastardizations. There is the béchamel version: start with a roux, add cheese, mustard, Worcestershire; call it a day.

I think the more pure version is made with ale. Based on nothing more than my opinion, of course.

So, I did some looking around and the most likely recipe I found was in the Joy of Cooking (75th Anniversary Edition), 2006 (p. 112).

I like the quote:

Our correspondence is closed on the subject of rarebit versus rabbit. We stick to “rarebit” because “rabbit” already means something else. We can only answer the controversy with a story. A stranger trying to calm a small crying boy: “I wouldn’t cry like that if I were you.”  Small boy: “you cry your way and I’ll cry mine.”

So I took the JofC version and bastardized it greatly. The very first time I had rarebit, it included the flavour of perfectly minced shallots. You know how traditions are: this was now my tradition and I couldn’t have rarebit without them. Also, the spice quantities were far too “thin” for my taste. In my opinion, rarebit should almost burn the tongue with its pungency. In fact, the cheese that I bought wasn’t even close to sharp enough. For a proper rarebit, I think the cheddar should be aged 5 years at least. Talk about burn the tongue.

So, here’s what I made:

Two very typically British Isles ingredients: Coleman's dry mustard and Worcestershire.

  1. Sautée 2 T minced shallots in 1 T butter until softened.
  2. Add 1/2 C dark beer (see the pictures… I couldn’t find Welsh beer so used Scottish – another peoples oppressed by the British).
  3. Gradually whisk in 2 C grated super-sharp cheese (cheddar or Colby).
  4. Add while stirring constantly: 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce; 1 tsp salt; 1 tsp paprika; 1 tsp Coleman’s dry mustard; 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper; 1 egg yolk.
  5. Cook, whisking constantly, until thickened (it said 1 minute; I would count on 10).
  6. Pour over toasted bread (rye or otherwise). Toast under a broiler until bubbled.

It helps if you use tin foil to contain the cheesy goodness.

Yum. I know it seems a little weird, but it’s burn-your-tongue pungent if you do it properly. Best served with some sliced heirloom tomatoes and maybe some Branston pickle.

~ Eva

P.S. The rarebit “sauce” cools nicely into a spread you can have on crackers in front of the TV. For example. I’m just sayin’.

Ale from another oppressed people in the British Isles

They're still a bit bitter about Bonnie Prince Charlie