If you’ve always wondered what the heck rarebit is, join everyone else. The famous dish known as Welsh Rarebit is actually a misnomer for Welsh Rabbit, and nobody really knows how it became part of the culinary language. A Welsh Rabbit is, at its most basic, toast and cheese, no rabbit—sort of like mock turtle soup—but the common “rarebit” recipe is a cheese sauce with made with milk, beer and various other ingredients, served over toast.
Although I knew the nutshell history of rarebit, I didn’t know that it has a number of subtle variants, depending on what part of the UK claims it. In my research, I came upon this fascinating tidbit, from a 1747 cookbook:
“To make a Scotch rabbit, toast the bread very nicely on both sides, butter it, cut a slice of cheese about as big as the bread, toast it on both sides, and lay it on the bread.
“To make a Welsh rabbit, toast the bread on both sides, then toast the cheese on one side, lay it on the toast, and with a hot iron brown the other side. You may rub it over with mustard.
“To make an English rabbit, toast the bread brown on both sides, lay it in a plate before the fire, pour a glass of red wine over it, and let it soak the wine up. Then cut some cheese very thin and lay it very thick over the bread, put it in a tin oven before the fire, and it will be toasted and browned presently. Serve it away hot.”
And then there’s…
Buck Rarebit, Buck Rabbit or Golden Buck—Welsh Rarebit with an egg on top. And Blushing Bunny—Welsh rarebit blended with tomato soup.
Anyway, last week I bought some fresh asparagus and as I pondered what I could make with it, I got an idea. Why not asparagus rarebit? With a little ham?