Expand your U.K. IQ: Lucky for the rabbit, this dish has none
June 28, 2006
When it comes to foods with peculiar names and ambiguous undertones, hardly has there been a more misleading dish than Welsh rabbit.
For starters, it is not particularly Welsh, nor does it contain the flesh of a small, fur-bearing mammal of the Thumper family. Indeed, though Americans may have heard it called “rabbit,” it is normally seen on menus in the United Kingdom as “rarebit” and it is a “very, very English” food, said Derek Quelch, executive chef at London’s Goring Hotel.
“It’s basically just cheese on toast,” Quelch said, but restaurants often spruce it up. At the Goring Hotel, for instance, Quelch starts by reducing stout or ale, adding some bechamel (white) sauce, cheddar, Worcestershire sauce and egg yolks, and using that as the topping for the bread, instead of two slices of Kraft. The whole thing is then quickly broiled and often served as an after-dinner savory item, instead of a sweet dessert, he said.
As for the history of the “rabbit” name, Quelch said he didn’t know how it came into use. Popular legend has it that it was originally coined by the English back when things were referred to as “Welsh” to intimate they were less refined or less sophisticated. A “Welsh rabbit” then was just a lump of toast, and “rarebit” may have grown from there.
Got a question about something you’ve seen or heard around the United Kingdom? E-mail us at: firstname.lastname@example.org