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Friday, February 22, 2013

It's Lent. Meatless Fridays. Welsh Rarebit.

I go old-school. I'm a good Catholic boy so on Ash Wednesday I turn my thoughts and heart to a quiet and deep contemplation of what it is to be one of God's creations. That, and I have many-many fond memories of my Dad making this cheesy, savory dish for our meatless Fridays.
 A true gem among all the rubbish that is English cuisine. GOD that hurt to type. I mean really, English??? Yes really. Here's a story.
 The legend is that this dish originated among the servants of the English manor-houses during the 16th and 17th centuries. Day-old bread and dry, sharp English Cheddar were combined with beer, mustard and herbs and here we are today with this lovely plate of scrumptiousness. There is no reason or rhyme to the word "rarebit" it seems to be a dig against the Welsh servants but as to it's meaning I gather nobody knows.
 It's an open-faced grilled-cheese sandwich with a whisk of beer and mustard. I dare you to hate it. I double-dog dare you. I triple-dog....heck, never mind. Here we go.

  Chef Nick Does Welsh Rarebit. No this isn't the promised rabbit dish, that's next month


A loaf of good and crusty day-old bread. Sliced thick on the bias.
1 English beer, 12 oz. The bulk produced American crap just won't do as they are made from gnat piss. Use a micro-brewed Ale or a good English Ale like Newcastle.
1 TB dry mustard
1 1/2 cup of good sharp Cheddar, shredded (for 2 NTYC points, tell me where Cheddar gets it's color from, no google)
3 TB butter
1 TB flour
1/2 cup warm milk
1 splash of Worcestershire (I'm going to abbreviate this as WS for the rest of the day, it's too hard to spell ok?)
1 good pinch of dried ground Paprika
1 good pinch Cayenne Pepper
fresh ground Black-Pepper
1 egg yolk, fresh and lightly whisked
some chopped Parsley about a TB or so
fresh Chives, snipped. That's our garnish
snipped? yessir
and just for us Catholics maybe some smoked Salmon.
To make this more a non-Lenten dish maybe some smoked Ham.

grill pan
sauce pan
Alongside any cruciferous vegetable like Broccoli, Cauliflower, or just a cold salad of baby-greens or Watercress. Prepare anyway you like. I'm roasting mine in butter. Yes, butter.

This is old territory, we've seen this sauce sorta before. It's a lot like Bechamel but it's beer based. Isn't that wonderful? Also pay attention to the ratio for the Roux.

Melt the butter in a largish deep pot
 once all melted whisk in the flour to make a Roux

 add the spices

Whisk in the milk.

Drop down to medium heat. Add the beer.

Keep whisking and you will notice a gentle thickening. Drop your heat to lower-medium. Take up a small amount of the sauce and whisk it gently into your egg-yolk. This is called tempering. Whisk that back into the rest, this will make a nice shiny and thick base.

Add your cheese and a dash of WS. Once all the cheese is melted add the Parsley.
That's it really.

You got that bread sliced thick right?

Brush both sides with melted butter and place on a hot grill-pan. Flip over and toast the other side and set aside. For a little bit extra I added a small piece of smoked Salmon on top the bread. Eating fish on Fridays during Lent is an old tradition. If you want to hear how that came about just send me a message.

Cover the bread slices with the sauce

and garnish with a sprinkle of Chives. This is a wonderfully satisfying and savory dish wether you're celebrating Lent or not. From prep to plate the whole thing takes maybe an hour. You got that kinda time, I know you do.

cooking poor, eating rich
get your grub on

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