I love food with a story.
I have had this recipe for Welsh Rarebit printed off and in my binder for a long time (I’m not going to PROJECT RECIPE it, though, since it wasn’t from a food blog). I don’t know what caught my eye about it when I first found it. It just sounded weird, I guess. So, I printed it, and I started wondering what the back story was. Where did it come from? Why did it have such an odd name?
It’s basically toast with cheese sauce over it. And this is a real thing. I mean, I’m sure college kids eat stuff like this all the time. But this is a real thing. This isn’t your ordinary cheese sauce, though. It has dijon mustard and porter in it, along with cheddar cheese. The flavors were so complex. And even though there’s only a little bit of mustard, the taste is so prominent. It goes great with the bite of rye bread.
Apparently, the dish was originally called Welsh Rabbit, and was an English tavern dish. It has always been simple toast with cheese sauce–there has apparently been rabbit in it, ever. It dates back to the early 1700s, and somewhere along the way, the name transformed into “rarebit” instead of “rabbit”. One theory is that peasants were not allowed to keep rabbits killed in the forest, but instead had to turn them over to the lords who owned the land. So, they used a little cheese stretched into a creamy sauce instead. But I doubt this is true. I suspect rabbit morphed into rarebit by people who simply didn’t get the “joke” that there was no rabbit in this dish. It became a cheeky term that seems to make as many people mad as those who like to call it this. But everyone knows what it means.
This dish was a great quick and easy dinner perfect for a cold winter night. I bought the fancy rye bread and really good sharp cheddar. With such a simple dish with few ingredients, it’s important to use quality ingredients.
I would definitely make it again because it’s one of those things that you can probably whip up if you happen to have rye bread and porter on hand.
If you’re down with cheese (hello? who isn’t) and some quick and easy food you can say is a fancy British dish (say with with the accent and it sounds better) you should definitely try this.