Welsh Rabbit (aka "Rarebit")

Here's another of the recipes from my "Beer in Cooking" article in the Athens Banner Herald recently.

Welsh Rabbit, that delightful British hot cheese mixture served over toast, dates back to the 18th century. Composed of cheddar cheese melted with beer (or sometimes with a béchamel sauce), it may be a local variant of Swiss Fondue. The whimsical name alleged that the Welsh were too poor to buy, or too clumsy to hunt, a real rabbit. In fact, cheese is much esteemed in Wales. The occasional name change to "rarebit" is modern, and is not British.

This cheese sauce is served hot over toast or boiled vegetables. It can be lunch or supper, or the starter course to a dinner.

Beer is the traditional accompaniment for food cooked with beer. Though I'll confess I prefer wine with food.

In the recipe I've indicated the general type of beer used plus an Athens brew that works well. The recipe serves six to eight.

WELSH RABBIT (aka "Rarebit")

1 pound sharp yellow cheddar cheese, freshly grated

2 tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 (12-ounce) bottle mildly hopped beer, such as Terrapin Golden Ale

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard or 1/2 teaspoon dry English mustard mixed with 1 tablespoon water

Toasted bread, or boiled (5 minutes) Brussels sprouts or broccoli, for serving

2 teaspoons finely minced parsley

Toss cheese together with flour, salt, nutmeg and pepper.

Rub pan (from which the dish will be served) with garlic, using wooden spoon. Discard garlic.

Heat beer in pan until foam clears and bubbling begins.

Add cheese by the handful, stirring between additions and bringing liquid back to a bubble.

Add mustard. Simmer, stirring frequently, 2 minutes. Taste, and add salt if needed.

Serve over toasted bread or boiled vegetables. Dust lightly with minced parsley.