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My reading tastes have always geared to the classic British, especially the ones penned by the ladies. The J.R.R. Tolkien books were also favorites. These authors' detailed descriptions of food captivated my imagination and hunger, and greatly influenced my choice of career path. Welsh rarebit (or "rabbit"), the open-faced sandwich of toasted bread and a heady ale-and-cheese sauce is a dish that I always envisioned being served to a weary traveler eating at dark, candle-lit inn; the deeply satisfying, rich mess soothing the exhausted diner.
Welsh rarebit is known to have originally been a tavern dish of Great Britain, but the back story of how it came by the handle "rarebit" or "rabbit" is an unsolved mystery.
Recipes for the cheese sauce vary, as they tend to after centuries of translation: some start with a butter-and-flour roux base, while others rely solely on shredded cheese for thickening power. Ale is a must, and cream s an occasional addition which I've opted for to create a more velvety sauce. Seasonings most often used are mustard (dry or wet), cayenne, Worcestershire, and paprika. Cheddar, especially older ones, when melted tend to turn gummy and ooze out grease, so be forewarned, this sauce must be prepared just before serving and does not sit nor reheat well.
When thinking about the recipe, I wanted to highlight its pub ties and decided to serve it atop a robust porter ale waffle rather than the classic toast. These waffles are generous with butter, giving them an incomparable crunch. Under the cover of thick, swarthy broiled and bubbling sauce lie pieces of smoky bacon. To balance the richness, I've slipped in thick slices of sweet tomatoes and bright sautéed scallions. Try it on a day when you feel as worn as those hooded, rain-soaked journeymen of yore.
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