cheese, williamsburg cookbook

welsh rabbit

It sounds exotic, right? Welsh rabbit. Or, as Mrs. Hannah Glasse called it in her Art of Cookery in 1774, Welch Rabbit.

Surprise! It’s cheese on toast. (Served with kale salad.)

My previous experience with this dish, also known as Welsh rarebit, is limited. Back in high school, I blazed through Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy series, a wonderfully old-fashioned series set in turn-of-the-century Minnesota. The main characters deal with regular high school problems and romantic dramas, and every now and then they make exotic-sounding dishes like Welsh rarebit in their chafing dishes. I was fascinated.

Then a few years later I found myself at a very old-boys’-club-type restaurant that happened to serve Welsh rarebit, and of course I had to try it. The dish came as a piece of toast swimming in a luscious cheese sauce, accompanied by bits of bacon. I’m sorry to say that I didn’t like it very much. The sauce was made with beer, and back then I was an innocent little freshman who’d never had a drink in her life. So I chalked it up as one of those unfortunate culinary experiences, never to be tried again.

Flash forward to the present day. My tastes have (thankfully) evolved since then, and the recipe didn’t look too dangerous. The cookbook writer Mrs. Glasse did instruct me to “toast the Cheese on one Side, lay it on the Toast, and with a hot Iron brown the other Side,” which could have gotten dicey. I don’t know about you, but I like to reserve my iron for making my clothes smooth. So while this could have gone in a whole different direction, I kept it simple. Mrs. Glasse also didn’t specify the amount of cheese to use, so I sliced up just enough to cover the toast and kept it at that. It made for a delicious, easy dinner.

And the fancy name? No one’s sure where the name came from, but it might have originated as a slur on the Welsh people and their skill at hunting rabbits. Or their inability to afford rabbit’s meat.

I’ll take cheese on toast any day.

Very Easy Welsh Rabbit
(adapted from The Williamsburg Art of Cookery)

1 piece of bread
a few slices of cheddar cheese
1 tbsp Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 400 F and set a rack at the top of the oven. Meanwhile, toast the bread in a toaster. When it’s ready, set the toast on a baking sheet and arrange the cheese on top. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and brown. Before serving, brush with the mustard.

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