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Welsh Rarebit Demystified

welsh rarebitSure Welsh rarebit sounds a little like something that would have shown up on a menu in Camelot, but we’ve got a secret for you—it’s basically toast with amazingly delicious, melty, cheese sauce smothered all over it. Who doesn’t want to eat that for brunch? Wacky name aside, it's easy to see why the dish is making a comeback on brunch menus across the country. We think you should give it a shot.  

The dish originates from 18th Century Great Britain and was first called Welsh rabbit. The origin of the name is unknown, but the closest guess is that in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries “Welsh” was a humorous moniker for inferior or poor quality articles. For example, poor quality or possibly counterfeit pearls were referred to as “Welsh pearls” and to use a “Welsh comb” meant coming one’s hair with one’s fingers. As a result, it’s thought that Welsh rabbit may have started as a dish that was resorted to when meat was not available.*

Today, basic Welsh rarebit is simply toast topped with a luxurious sauce made by whisking together melted butter, flour, cheddar cheese, beer, heavy cream and your choice of spices over low heat until the sauce is smooth. It can be made and poured over the toast just prior to serving or poured on the toast before toasting in the oven for a thicker, baked-on texture. Either way, it’s extremely rich and decadent. 

Because the bread is central to this dish, it’s important that you choose the right variety. We suggest our Heritage Ovens Artisan Breads White Baguette cut long and thick, then lightly toasted for crispy flavor and texture perfection. 

For the sauce, go with aged cheddar and grate it before whisking into a mixture of melted butter and flour. This will allow for a smooth canvas for the other flavors you choose to add.

To make the dish your own, experiment with different cheese combinations, adding spices like cayenne pepper or dry mustard, and throwing in a dash of hot sauce. You can also play with different types of beer for varying levels of boozy flavor.


Variations:

  • Welsh rarebit becomes a golden buck or buck rabbit, depending on the source, when it’s topped with a poached egg (something we always recommend). We've also scarfed down a version of the dish where the bread is topped with thinly sliced ham before the gooey cheese sauce.
  • English rarebit replaces the beer with red wine.
  • For American rarebit, whisk egg whites until they form stiff peaks, then add to your grated cheese mixture. Pour over toast and bake until the mixture rises, then serve immediately.
  • To make the dish even more flavorful, add crispy bacon and fresh tomato slices.
  • Try using this sauce instead of hollandaise for a cheesy love child from parents rarebit and benedict.


*Source: Oxford Dictionaries, Oxford Words blog, "The origin of Welsh rabbit," July 8, 2014