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Published February 09, 2011, 12:00 AM

Halgrimson: Don’t let the name fool you

According to Alan Davidson author of “The Oxford Companion to Food,” the earliest recipe for Welsh Rabbit appeared in 1725.

By: Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, INFORUM

According to Alan Davidson author of “The Oxford Companion to Food,” the earliest recipe for Welsh Rabbit appeared in 1725.

Ironically, the dish doesn’t use any rabbit meat in it. It’s a cheese-based recipe; and it’s been suggested the name comes from the ages-old saying that rabbit was the “poor man’s meat,” but in Wales cheese was the “poor man’s meat.”

Davidson relates a folk-tale that illustrates the Welsh’s love of cheese: At the gates of heaven, a company of Welshmen were causing trouble. St. Peter went out to them and in a loud voice shouted “Caws Pobi,” which means “roasted cheese.” Upon hearing these words, the Welshmen rushed out and St. Peter shut the gates behind them.

The recipe appeared in a French cookbook in 1814 and became popular there at the end of the 1800s and early 1900s. Early recipes used white or red wine as an ingredient that makes the mixture more like a fondue.

At one time, the name was changed to Welsh Rarebit, meaning savory bite.

Welsh Rabbit has evolved, and the most popular recipes today use beer rather than wine. I use beer, and since I prefer a dark beer such as Summit Extra Pale Ale, I use that, but any other beer would be satisfactory except for “light” brews, which I don’t think are good for anything.

I usually choose a white cheddar because I think it is a better product than the dyed yellow cheddar. The dish is also good using Swiss cheese. If you want a more substantial meal and have some leftover ham, dice it and add some to the cheese sauce.

Welsh Rabbit can be served over crisply toasted bread of good quality or English muffins or even cornbread or crackers, and it makes an easy, cozy meal on a cold winter night.

Welsh Rabbit

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

Dash of cayenne

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon Worcestershire

1/2 cup beer or ale

2 eggs, slightly beaten

8 slices toast

Melt butter in top of a double boiler set directly over burner. Add cheese, and heat, stirring occasionally, until cheese is melted. Pour over boiling water, add seasonings, and pour in liquid mixed with eggs. Cook until thick, stirring frequently. Serve on crisply toasted bread. Serves 4.


Readers can reach Forum columnist Andrea Hunter Halgrimson at ahalgrimson@forumcomm.com

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