An open-face toasted cheese sandwich, extra savory
Welsh Rarebit – a/k/a Welsh Rabbit – is comfort food with savor. It’s quick and easy to make too, so it’s perfect for a weeknight dinner. Or maybe a midnight snack.
Fast and flavorful, this dish will put a twitch in any bunny’s nose.
Recipe: Welsh Rarebit
Welsh Rarebit traditionally uses beer or ale as an ingredient, and we prefer it that way. But some recipes substitute milk or cream, which is ideal for those who prefer not to use alcohol in cooking – see Notes for that version.
We like to garnish this dish with fried bacon. It looks nice and adds extra heft. Want even more gravitas? A Fried Egg garnish would be wonderful. As would a Poached Egg. BTW, when Welsh Rarebit is served with an egg on top, it’s sometimes called Buck Rabbit or Golden Buck.
This dish takes no more than 15 minutes to prepare.
The recipe makes about 4 servings. Leftover cheese sauce keeps for a few days if refrigerated in an airtight container.
- toast for serving (1 to 2 pieces per serving; see Notes)
- bacon for garnish (optional)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 to 2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard (to taste; start with 1)
- ¾ to 1 cup beer (see Notes; a darker beer is traditional)
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce (or to taste)
- 8 ounces cheese, grated (preferably cheddar)
- hot sauce to taste (optional)
- salt to taste (optional)
- chopped parsley for garnish (optional)
- The sauce for Welsh Rarebit takes just a few minutes to make, and you’ll want to serve it immediately. So you need to have the toast and bacon garnish (if using) ready to go. For making toast, you can just use the trusty toaster. Or layer the bread on a baking sheet and slide it under the broiler in your oven until lightly browned (you can butter the bread if you want; that adds extra goodness, and we recommend it). For preparing the bacon: Pan fry it if you wish, or microwave it.
- Make the cheese sauce: First make a roux. Use a 2-quart pan (preferably one with a sloping bottom, like a Windsor pan or a saucier). Melt the butter over medium stovetop heat. Then add the flour and stir constantly for 1 minute (use a wire whisk or wooden spoon). Cook an additional 2 minutes, stirring the butter/flour mixture every 30 seconds or so. Cook longer if you like a darker roux; we often cook it for 5 minutes total. (In between stirs, you can grate the cheese, chop the parsley, and tend to the toast and bacon.)
- Now whisk the mustard into the roux. Add the beer and Worcestershire sauce, then cook for 2 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the cheese, and continue stirring until it’s melted. Taste the sauce and add hot sauce (if using) to taste. Add salt if needed.
- To serve, cut the toast slices in half and arrange them attractively on individual serving plates. Cover the toast with sauce, then add some chopped parsley for garnish if you wish. Top with a slice of bacon, if using. Serve and enjoy.
- What kind of beer to use? Whatever you have on hand! Many cooks use a darker beer like porter or stout, but we find the flavor too heavy. We generally use an ale. We don’t suggest using an IPA, though – the flavor is too hoppy in this recipe, at least for us.
- How much beer to use? We find that ¾ cup of beer makes for a fairly thick sauce, which we like. If you want a thinner sauce, use 1 cup of beer.
- If you don’t want to use beer, just substitute milk. Or cream if you’re going for a particularly rich dish.
- We’ve also seen recipes that substitute tomato juice for beer. In which case the dish often is called a Blushing Bunny.
- You can probably substitute all sorts of liquids for beer. Some cooks use cider. White wine would take the sauce in a different (but tasty) direction. And who knows what red wine would do? Play with your food – it’s fun.
- Cheddar cheese is traditional in this dish. But you can substitute any cheese that will melt.
- The more mustard and Worcestershire sauce you use, the more strongly flavored the dish will be. We suggest starting with less. You can always add more to taste.
- BTW, you can substitute dried mustard powder if you like. We suggest using ½ to 1 teaspoon.
- Some recipes call for using an egg yolk or two in the sauce. We’ve never made Welsh Rarebit that way, but it may be worth a try. These recipes often skip the flour, since the egg yolks will thicken the dish.
- Toast is the traditional base for this dish, but you could substitute biscuits, English muffins, whatever.
- Toasting bread under the broiler is the easiest way to produce a whole batch of toast in a short period of time. If you’re using this method, you may want to butter one side of each piece for extra lusciousness.
- BTW, we think white or light wheat bread makes the best toast for this dish. But whole wheat works, too.
- If your serving plates are heatproof, you can run the plated dishes under the broiler for a minute or so to brown the top of the cheese. Or even use a kitchen torch.
- Rarebit or rabbit? Danged if we know! This dish dates back to 18th century Britain, and probably was called rabbit originally. But over the years, the name has been changed to rarebit. Maybe because there’s no rabbit in the dish? Or because folks thought it sounded more refined? Beats us. Call it whatever makes you happy.
“Yum,” said Mrs Kitchen Riffs. “This makes my cottontail wiggle.”
“So you don’t think this is a hare-brained dish?” I said.
“I’d say it’s the big cheese of sandwiches,” said Mrs K R.
“I’m happy as Peter Rabbit in a carrot patch,” I said.
“Watch out for Mr McGregor,” said Mrs K R. “While he’s chasing you, I’ll just finish off this last bit of cheese sauce.”
“If he catches me, I’ll be toast,” I said.
“Even a rabbit’s foot won’t save you,” said Mrs K R. “It didn’t help the rabbit much, after all.”
True. Hare today, gone tomorrow.
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