Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Welsh Rabbit

Let’s begin 2015 by tucking into a rich, spicy, cheese-glazed piece of toast called a Welsh Rabbit. Today’s recipe comes from Simon Hopkinson and Lindsey Bareham’s The Prawn Cocktail Years (here). Consult Fergus Henderson’s Nose To Tail Eating and you’ll find a recipe for Welsh Rarebit. Is the dish a Rabbit or Rarebit? It doesn’t really much matter. Call this delectable savory what you like.

Hopkinson and Bareham’s version cooks up differently than your typical Rabbit. Their recipe eliminates the dish’s standard roux base. This means one needs to take a bit of extra care when making their Rabbit’s cheese topping.  Cheese has a tendency to break when it melts at too high a temperature. Adding a starch (such as the flour in a roux) to cheese helps to prevent breakage, but you can also avoid overcooking by using a very low heat and slowly incorporating your cheese in small quantities.

Another difference in the Hopkinson/Bareham Rabbit is that it includes egg yolks to increase the dish’s already over-the-top richness. The yolks add additional fat and body and cause the cheese mixture to puff up nicely whilst the Rabbit broils.

But enough of the differences. Today’s recipe shares most of the essential ingredients in any Welsh Rabbit: butter, English mustard, cayenne pepper, Worcestershire sauce, stout and, of course, cheese. Although called a Welsh Rabbit, this dish, which serves 2, includes no rabbit, Welsh or otherwise.

25g butter
1 tsp English mustard [Note: I use Colman’s Mustard Powder]
Worcestershire sauce
4 shakes Tabasco
2 tbsp stout or Guinness
75g mature Cheddar or Double Gloucester or Cheshire or Lancashire, grated
2 egg yolks
2 thick slices bread
cayenne pepper

Place the butter, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco and stout or Guinness in a small pan and heat it through. Add the cheese, stirring as it melts, without letting the mixture boil. Remove the pan from the heat and leave it to cool to room temperature. Beat in the two egg yolks. Toast the bread on one side, spread the untoasted side thickly with the mixture and cook under a pre-heated grill until blistered and bubbling. Dust with cayenne and serve with a splash of Worcestershire sauce.

Some notes and thoughts. Again, work over a very low heat and add the grated cheese slowly and you shouldn’t have a problem with the cheese breaking. I use a couple of splashes of Worcestershire sauce and this quantity tasted just fine to me. Finally, Hopkinson and Bareham admit that “[t]he recipe uses what seems like a silly amount of stout….” Yes, the recipe calls for two (2) tablespoons of stout. But the pair also point out that the rest of the bottle can nicely wash down the spicy Rabbit.