But, while reliably tasty, grilled cheese is lacking a certain something in the excitement department. It is, sometimes, a smidgen boring. The cheesy answer? (Lactose intolerant readers, avert your eyes.)
Welsh Rabbit! Welsh Rabbit is basically an open-face grilled cheese sandwich, but the cheese is melty and boozy and spicy, sort of like a robust fondue. It utilizes any variety of flat or past-its-prime booze you happen to have around the house: traditional Rabbit calls for flat ale or beer, but I use leftover white wine most often.
I'm telling you: undrinkable wine never had it this good.
And why is it called Welsh Rabbit? It is a joke, a joke that is likely at the expense of the Welsh. (Welsh readers, avert your eyes.) According the aged tomes of Ye Olde Wikipedia:
It may be an ironic name coined in the days when the Welsh were notoriously poor: only better-off people could afford butcher's meat, and while in England rabbit was the poor man's meat, in Wales the poor man's meat was cheese. It may be a slur against the Welsh, since the dish contains no meat and so was considered inferior. Then again, because the word Welsh was at the time used by the English to describe anything inferior or foreign, it may allude to the dish's Continental European origin.To recap: obscure English cultural joke, vague Euro-flair, booze, spices, cheese. Welsh Rarebit has it all!
Side note: you see some cookbooks refer to this dish as Welsh Rarebit, but as grammarian H.W. Fowler stated in the 1936 edition of the Dictionary of Modern English Usage, "Welsh Rabbit is amusing and right. Welsh Rarebit is stupid and wrong."
Glad we settled that, then. On to the Welsh Rabbit!
First, you'll need a double boiler or, in the true spirit of broke-ass ingenuity, you can make your own with a medium saucepan and a metal mixing bowl. Bring an inch or so of water to a boil in the saucepan and let the mixing bowl warm up.
Carve off one tablespoon of butter...
...and add it to the mixing bowl.
Once the butter is melting, round up a cup of beer or wine and add that to the bowl, too.
Warm the butter and beer, being sure to savor the exquisite, hedonistic aroma of warm, buttery booze. Try not to drink it.
While the liquid is warming, grate about three cups (or one pound) of a nice, sharp Cheddar.
Gradually add the cheese to the warm beer, stirring constantly with a fork until melted and fairly smooth.
Now, quickly add one lightly beaten egg, one teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce, and some dry spices, which you'll want to have all pre-measured, like this...
...which will both prevent you from leaving your cheese unattended and make you feel like the host of your own low-to-medium budget Food Network show. The spices include a little sweet paprika, dry mustard, curry powder, salt and a pinch of cayenne.
Whisk everything together and cook for about a minute, until the cheese sauce thickens slightly.
Grab some toasty, crusty slices of bread...
...and pour your Rabbit sauce over the top. If you like pepper, why not go nuts and grind a little over the top? We're living now!
I like to serve Welsh Rabbit with a green salad and tart vinaigrette, you know, for health and as a palette cleanser during this...
...whole situation. This dish really does scratch some primal, juvenile itch, that craving for unadulterated hot cheese and warm bread, rich and sharp and crunchy and smooth all at once. The egg gives the sauce a particularly nice texture (just look at that ooze!) and the Worcestershire, curry, and mustard give it some surprising complexity. All this goodness after about five minutes of work!
And, above all, this recipe is absolutely perfect for all those rainy, lazy Sunday afternoons when you find yourself just fresh out of rabbit.
(Click here for print-ready recipe.)
Welsh Rabbit (or Rarebit)
Serves 4 to 6
3 cups Cheddar cheese, grated
1 T. butter
1 cup flat beer, ale, white wine, or champagne*
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 t. Worcestershire sauce
1 t. salt
1/2 t. paprika
1/4 t. dry mustard
1/4 t. curry powder
a pinch of ground red pepper
8 slices of toasted bread
Fill bottom of double boiler with an inch of water, bring to a boil. Melt butter in top of a double boiler. Add cup of beer (or wine) and heat until warm. Gradually add cheese, stirring constantly with a fork until melted and smooth. Add egg, Worcestershire, salt, and dry spices. Cook sauce, stirring constantly, for one to two minutes, until sauce thickens slightly. Pour cheese over toast and serve.
*If you'd prefer not to use alcohol or don't have any alcohol on hand, you can substitute tomato juice for the beer and make a "Blushing Bunny." Very virtuous, still tasty.