Re: Eilis, Defending the Rarebit
So I was scrolling through the Culture blog roll and came across a post by Eilis that I must have 'hopped' over: http://www.culturecheesemag.com/blog/eilis_restaurant_week
'Welsh Rarebit' or 'Welsh Rabbit' happens to be scrumptious, if done right. A beer, cheese, mustard and spice 'mess' melted on top of bread and broiled to impart a crispy caramelized crust. We came up with an idea for a panini at rubi's cafe (where I am the manager/monger/chef) and it was an instant hit and is currently a standing menu item. It took a little bit of tweaking to get the flavor down. A British gentleman protested, "It has to have more mustard! It has to burn your nostrils when you eat it! And you must only use Coleman's!" I didn't get that carried away with the mustard but I dusted some more Coleman's in.
I was, of course, interested in the meaning or origin and scrolled through the internet and a few British cookbooks. It is referred to as 'rabbit' but I was unable to find how the name 'rarebit' stuck, not to mention why there wasn't any rabbit or meat in the dish. Then I thought to myself, "self, there are other curious dishes like 'toad in a hole' or 'turtle soup', even 'blushing bunny' (which is rarebit with tomato)." One side of the story claims that since the Welsh were unskilled huntsman, they returned to their pantry only to discover stale bread and cheese. Another story attributes the Welsh as being poorer than the English at the time so where rabbit was the poor man's meat in England, cheese was the poor man's rabbit in Wales. The Welsh aren't given alot of credit in these stories but they certainly did something right. Perhaps Eilis is bitter about having Welsh ancestry?
In the cafe, I love to tell these stories or myths to those with raised eyebrows and also like to describe the dish as a sort of fondue but with beer instead of wine and a Cheddar-like cheese instead of Swiss.
Here's how it goes:
1 Tbl unsalted butter
1 Tbl flour
1 lb cheshire, lancashire or leicester style cheese, grated (anyone read the article on flaky English cheese in the winter 2011 issue?)
1 cup ale (use your favorite, or whatever you got-just like the Welsh did)
1 tsp worcestershire sauce
1 Tbl Coleman's mustard powder (or more if you like the sinus burn)
1 tsp sweet paprika
salt/ pepper, to taste
Melt butter in pan and whisk in flour over medium heat to form a 'roux' or a thickening paste. Whisk continuously till it foams then whisk in the beer. Whisk until beer boils to a thick gravy-like consistency then melt in the cheese. Add seasonings, taste, season more if needed then scrape into a bowl and refrigerate overnight. Cheese should now have a dough-like consistency which can be smeared in between to slices of buttered bread. Put on a panani machine, and...viola! a complete mess of you panini grill yet tasty crispy, gooey cheese mess!