Welsh rarebit is a savory dish made by serving a melted cheese sauce over hot toast. It’s name originates from 18th century Britain, and was originally “welsh rabbit” in spite of the recipe’s meatless makeup. The name was possibly offered for it’s irony, since the Welsh were generally poor during that time and cheese was considered the poor Welsh man’s meat. At any rate, as Michael Quinion observed, “rabbit here is being used the the same way as ‘turtle’ in ‘mock-turtle soup’, …or ‘duck’ in ‘Bombay duck’.” Over time, the name was erroneously transformed to “Welsh rarebit,” with the Oxford English Dictionary describing the change as an “etymologizing alteration.” No matter the history of it’s name, September 3rd is National Welsh Rarebit Day, and the perfect opportunity to whip up this simple and delicious dish.
There are several variations of Welsh rarebit (buck rarebit features a poached egg, and a Welsh rarebit blended with a tomato base is called a “Blushing Bunny”) but Chris and I decided to cook up a traditional recipe for our first time making this dish. When I started searching for a recipe I was surprised to find a proliferation of information about Welsh rarebit — how had I made it through my entire life without ever hearing of it? But a quick glance of the ingredients told me everything I needed to know: as a cheese lover I knew this was going to turn out to be a great “unofficial.” I picked a recipe, and Chris and I headed to the grocery store.
The recipe we chose was simple and I was glad to find that we already had most of the ingredients (butter, flour, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, beer, heavy cream, shredded Cheddar, hot sauce, and rye bread) on hand. But one thing we did have to buy was a good porter beer. We ended up getting a bottle of Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout — Chris and I have both had it before, and he particularly enjoyed it, so we knew that the extra bit leftover wouldn’t go to waste. And once we got home, cracked that bottle open, and poured it into the warm saucepan, the kitchen filled with a glorious smell. For someone who doens’t really enjoy drinking beer, I really love cooking with it!