Monday, January 4, 2010

WELSH RAREBIT - Restaurant Quality Appetizer

Such decadent deliciousness! Today I am posting a recipe for a rich, thick, cheesy - yet rarely made anymore delight. Reduce the recipe down to it's basics, and it is just an open faced toasted cheese sandwich. It is to laugh...

Here's my story of my very first Welsh Rarebit...

8 years ago, I had an opportunity to visit England on business. I worked for a few days, and then Jackie and I enjoyed a vacation. I did quite a bit of research on what to do and especially where to eat. One of our evenings I was trying to capture the feel of Charles Dickens and a true Olden Tymes London meal. I found that meal at RULES restaurant. Established in 1798, Rules advertises itself as the oldest restaurant in London. The restaurant owns an estate in the high countryside where they source their wild game that the menu is famous for. the restaurant is conveniently located near several West End theatres. We dined before a show, and enjoyed the experience so much that we returned after the show for our dessert and coffee.

The restaurant is stunningly beautiful. the setting, the decor and certainly the menu lived up to my every expectation. I was on a bit of a cheese kick during this vacation. I was thrilled to see cheese trays on many dessert menus (sadly usually absent on US menus). But at Rules, they featured this fancy dancy toasted cheese sandwich as an appetizer paired with a soup.

And oh my gods... I never forgot that first taste!

And so, this is now my third installment of my romantic Christmas Eve meal. I am hoping to nudge some of you to consider a similar culinary experiment for any possible romantic day in your life. An Anniversary, birthday or Valentines Day would be perfect. A couple days ago, I told you about the 8 AM hour, when I made Asiago / Blue Cheese Crisps, and why that menu item was romantic for my wife and me. Yesterday, I made BLUE CHEESE SAUCE over Homemade POTATO CHIPS - Restaurant Quality Appetizer and 7 things about ME!!! And they were VERY VERY good! Again, we spent an hour reliving a few romantic moments during the 9 AM hour while I prepared the dish!

So, it's 10 AM... And it's time to get international...

I actually have FOODYCAT (an Australian blogger I have only recently started to follow... Love her) to thank for giving me the idea for the Christmas jaunt down memory lane. Way back on November 9th, she posted her recipe for Welsh Rarebit. It triggered the memory of RULES, and started my mind wandering to the idea of a meal made just of recreated restaurant memories. You can see her recipe (along with a wonderful sounding Carrot soup) by clicking HERE.

OK, enough set-up, let's get to the recipe. WELSH RAREBIT has existed for over 300 years. Many of the earliest English cookbooks feature a recipe for the dish. There are many legends for the origin of the name, but the truth is lost to history. The one I like to believe is that the dish did indeed originate in Wales. the Welsh people were poorer than their English cousins. While Englanders would dine on Rabbit, the Welsh would have to make a meal of cheese. Those same talented Mrs. Cratchits' of the 17oo's that gave the world Yorkshire Pudding, also gave us this dish. A classic case of necessity being the Mother of "culinary creative" invention.

The word "rarebit" has no other use or meaning in the English language. In a snooty 1926 edition of the Dictionary of Modern English Usage, H. W. Fowler (who has no real sense of humor) claims: "Welsh Rabbit is amusing and right. Welsh Rarebit is stupid and wrong." Well, amusing or stupid...

Here's what I did... I followed Foodycat's recipe pretty straight forward...

Welsh Rarebit

4 slices of good, sturdy bread


1tsp butter

1tsp flour

1/2 cup brown ale

grated cheese (I used a mixture of mature chedder and parmesan)
worcestershire sauce
cayenne pepper

Dijon mustard

In a small pan, make a roux of the butter and flour. When it starts to bubble, gradually add the ale, stirring constantly until you have a smooth sauce. When the sauce comes to the boil, gradually add the grated cheese, stirring constantly while it melts.

How much you need is a matter for you and your cardiologist - I used about 150g. When the cheese is almost melted, taste and season with a splash of worcestershire sauce, a sprinkle of cayenne pepper and a teaspoonful of mustard.

Place the slices of bread in a shallow baking dish (I used parchment paper). Pour the hot, smooth cheese over the slices of bread, and put the baking dish under the grill (broiler) for a couple of minutes (watching closely) until the cheese colours and bubbles.

One other change I made, I used thick slices of Italian bread for this. I decided to fry them up (both sides) in some olive oil, so the cheese was poured over toast. As I read foodycat's recipe, she puts the un-toasted bread into the broiler. I certainly liked the texture of the crispness of the toast.

In no way did this disappoint. It was rich and hardy. Very thick and had all those amazing flavors. the texture with the toast was wonderful. It certainly held up to the added liquid. I believe the toast helped to keep this from becoming mushy bread.

Restaurant quality... You bet, in every way. the taste texture and look were exactly what I remembered and was what I wanted to achieve.

This Welsh rarebit recipe, like Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way." Jackie and I spent the hour talking over memories of that vacation. So, memories and a fancy dancy toasted cheese... Not just practically perfect in every way , but absolutely perfect in every way.

And hey... After this hour, it's only 11 in the morning... LOTS of recipes to follow!

21 comments:

  1. Oh well done! It looks wonderful! My office is actually 2 streets up from Rules, in Covent Garden. I will wave to it for you on my way home this afternoon!

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  2. Nice! I always thought of it as an upscale grilled cheese sandwich...

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  3. I haven't had Welsh rarebit for years, probably since I was a wee girl, and then it didn't look anything like this, more like melted Velveeta on saltines. This looks sooo much nicer! Lucky you to have dined at Rules. One of my big dreams is to London while I still remember why I want to be there!

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  4. ohhhh I love Welsh Rarebit ... haven't had it or made it in years... thanks for reminding me how much I really like it!

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  5. I've not been lucky to have had rarebit, but this looks great!

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  6. This looks like an amazing meal in a lovely restaurant. While I've never been to mainland England, I did spend two weeks in Ireland and Northern Ireland between my freshman and sophomore years in high school with my extended family (we have family still living in County Antrim, Northwen Ireland). They definitely have some interesting food (blood sausage every morning for breakfast was not a highlight for me), but nowhere makes fish and chips like Ireland.

    As for the cruise, I gained about 6 pounds, but it was all gone a few days after getting home. I do have a wedding dress to fit into in May, after all. :-)

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  7. Sounds excellent, what's not to love about a slightly more upscaled cheese on toast? haha

    I have Rules bookmarked as a place to go, although I don't remember why now... The problem with it is the price really, as there are Michelin starred restaurants I would rather visit that are similarly priced.

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  8. It looks CRAZY amazing! All that cheese! I've never tried a Welsh rarebit before, but now I'm sure I'll have to try it before I die!

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  9. ooo this looks amazing! I tried this recently at St John's and love it! Bookmarking this!

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  10. I've never had Welsh Rarebit and it looks yum.yum.yumie! And HEY, you have a badge. I'm grabbibg it now for my blog. I'm trying to get one made also.

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  11. Hey Dave - saw you appreciated my project! Thanks for following. Cool Blog!

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  12. Oooohhh! I love welsh rarebit! I've gotta make me some soon!!!!!!!!!!

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  13. I don't think I've ever had rarebit. Not even sure I actually knew what all was in it. it sounds / looks really good!

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  14. Ive heard of this but havent had it.. you sure make it sound delicious!

    I just noticed your button. Is it new? Ill be grabbing that for my blog sidebar.

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  15. I have heard of Welsh Rarebit, I have never had it. Sounds pretty darn delicious. It feels like an English comfort food-Yum.
    Enjoyed the story....Always do. :-)

    P.S. I saw the the blue cheese sauce over the potato chips that was just screaming my name. OMG that sounds good.

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  16. fun story! this looks sooo good!

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  17. Ours is a household that loves rarebit. We also love fin and haddie, so take no stock in what I say. I will tell you that I made this a lot when I was on contract and tired of strange restaurants in strange places. We were always put up in housekeeping hotels and despite laughably equipped kitchens, Welsh rarebit was doable and done - alot :-). This is so good with tomato soup on a cold winter evening. I loved your stories and it sounds like your anniversary was pitch perfect.

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  18. Dave, That sounds so good…it’s a simple meal yet so satisfying. Thanks to Foodycat for sharing too!

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