I have a confession to make. In my 26 years, I have never watched a Super Bowl. Heck, I've never even sat through an entire football game. So my position as an authority on appropriate food for the upcoming sports event of the year is pretty shaky. Nevertheless, having spent an informative and kind-of-icky half hour googling "cheese dip recipe," I think I can suggest a better alternative to this tired, processed party staple. Before we start, go ahead and throw away the Velveeta.
What came to my mind upon thinking "cheese dip" is an old classic of British cuisine: Welsh rarebit. Rarebit is essentially a regional variation of fondue, made with ale and a roux to keep it from becoming stringy, and mustard and Worcestershire sauce to give it that je ne sais quoi. The name, a corruption of "rabbit," probably originates from an anti-Welsh slur or joke: Rabbit was poor man's meat in Britain, and the Welsh couldn't afford even rabbit. These days, it's British comfort food at its best—simple, easy-to-make, and immensely satisfying on an almost primordial level.
The following recipe is adapted from one of my favorite British cookbooks, The River Cottage Year, by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and can serve as a master recipe for any rarebit variations you'd like to try (its Britishness also accounts for the metric measurements, which are by weight, rather than volume, as is customary for American recipes). After the recipe, I'll talk a bit about possible variations and considerations.
- 50 g butter
- 50 g all-purpose flour
- 300 ml beer
- 150 g grated cheese
- mustard (brown or Dijon)
- Worcestershire sauce
- salt and pepper
In a smallish saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, then stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly to prevent lumps, for about a minute. Add the beer slowly, stirring to make a smooth sauce.
Serve hot or warm in order to avoid gumminess. Traditionally, rarebit is spread on toast and broiled until it bubbles, but Fearnley-Whittingstall suggests dipping blanched broccoli raab into it. To serve at a Superbowl party, either go traditional and spread over minitoasts, giving them a quick pass in the broiler until they bubble, or use as a dip, served warm with anything that would be better with beer and cheese (read: anything).