Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What the heck is a Rarebit, and what is that Shepherd doing to it?!?

Wales is a place I know next to nothing about. I can rattle off all sorts of trivial fluff about every far-flung corner of the earth, except for Wales and a few banana republics here and there. All I know about them is that they have a sweet-looking flag, have a disproportionately large number of people named Llewellyn, and have an unfortunate reputation for sheep relations that is probably unfair, but rivals that of New Zealanders. Baa Ram Ewe indeed.

The only other thing I know is that Welsh Rarebits rule. Rarebit, also known to some as Welsh Rabbit, is a play on words, when snooty fog-breathers in England and other parts of the Isles used to have a laugh at what a bunch of broke-asses that Welshmen were, and said that to the Welsh, cheese was considered to be their rabbit, since they were too poor for the real thing. The Welsh, being precursors to modern rednecks or something, turned it around on everybody and made rarebit, a delicious sauce for toasted bread made out of cheese and beer. I can only imagine that this would be the work of a proto-Redneck, because I can totally see some dude with a mullet waking up in his shanty with a four-alarm hangover, trying to cook something with cheese, and pouring in a warm pint of last night's libation because "Hold my beer and watch this shit" happens.

For your rarebit sauce, grab some stuff:
  • 1 1/2 cup cheese, grated (I used some swanky black & yellow marbled Cahill's Porter Cheddar, but regular cheddar works plenty fine.)
  • 2/3 cup cream
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 tsp Dijon Mustard
  • 1/2 cup dark beer (Porter or Stout preferably.)
  • 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Begin by combining your flour and butter to whisk over medium heat in a 2 quart saucepot. You want to make a really thick roux. To that, add your Worcestershire & mustard, and whisk around quickly. Add your cream and bring the heat down to medium-low.

Mmm beer. Add the beer. Stir. That should be about half a bottle if you're like me and having a weenie 12 ounce instead of a pint. Rectify your situation with the other half of the bottle going into your face. Keep stirring.

Cheese in, pepper in, keep stirring!

Here's your finished rarebit. Mine's darker than usual on account of the Cahill's Porter cheese. Now, go toast you up some bread, and lets put it on a plate and ladle some of this stuff on top.

Haha yeah right.

You think I'd make something this awesome and just drop it on some toast? I've got bigger plans. Let's put this rarebit into some science machine and cross it with something...like a Shepherd's Pie! Also since we've basically made a drunk-ass relative of Sauce Mornay, let's put some macaroni all up in here. It may sound like I'm making all this crap up as I go, and you're absolutely right.

To begin the transformation, grab this junk:

You want about 1/2 cup frozen peas, maybe 1/3 jar of dried beef or maybe a half cup of leftover mince or whatever. You also want a small-medium russett potato. Not pictured, but also get a pound of elbow macaroni, and bring a gallon of water to boil with a few teaspoons of salt in it. Cook your macaroni about a minute or so shy of al-dente (aka done). You also want a small pad of butter reserved for the potato. I'll get to that later.

Chop your meat. This stuff is crazy delicious and I snuck a nibble. Cook's prerogative.

When your macaroni finishes, drain in a collander and transfer to a bowl. Toss with the dried beef and peas, and ladle your rarebit onto that.

Wash and dry the potato, and if you have a food processor, use the grater function to make you some awesome hash brown things. If you don't have a processor, use a grater with big holes. If you don't have that, you can always do this like a traditional shepherd's pie and mash the spuds for the topping. I want something a little more solid to contrast the macaroni, so I went with hash browns instead. When you've got your gratings, melt the pad of butter in a skillet and cook for a few minutes on medium-low, stirring a lot. You are only interested in turning the potato slightly translucent and soft. Don't crisp em yet. We'll get to that later.

Spoon your macaroni into ramekins or similar oven-happy dishes. Make it as level as you can, and leave about half an inch of space up top.

Top with the hash. Again, make it pretty even, and space it out so you get a crust and cover the macaroni. Go ahead and set your oven's broiler on, and make sure your rack is on the next-to-closest setting from the top.

Pop your ramekins onto a baking sheet and slide em in. Keep the door open because you want to watch them at all times. Don't worry about losing hot air because broiling is doing its work with direct radiant heat instead of hot air. This is fine.

Remove, let cool for a good 5-10 minutes or so, and serve with a glass of the same beer you used. In my opinion this is a one-ramekin meal, so if you are having other things make sure they're not quite as fattypants as this is. The stuff I suggested in the recipe will make easily six servings if not eight. The only difference is that each potato yields about enough hash for three or four servings. If you need more tater, just shred another one.

Mmm United Kingdom-ey.

So is this a Shepherd's Rarebit? Is it a Welsh Pie? Is it a Rarebitaroni Surprise? I don't know but it's pretty awesome stuff, and a hell of a lot more fun than some silly toast.

1 comment:

Kelly said...

Sounds lovely. As a huge cheese fan, I adore anything melty-cheesey. How clever of you to take the cheese sauce beyond the 'pour it on toast' stage and combine it with mac and beef! So creative. Makes me want to run out to the store and bring home some good cheese and stuff. Glad I found your blog.