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Welsh Rabbit (Rarebit)

Welsh Rarebit (Rabbit): Cheese sauce on a split, toasted English muffin
Kevin D. Weeks for NPR /

I first had this dish at Chowning's Tavern in Williamsburg, Va., when I was about 10. I fell in love with it and over the years developed my own version, but I had the opportunity to try it again at Chowning's Tavern about eight years ago. It was exactly as my taste buds remembered. The etymology of "rabbit" isn't clear, but the Oxford English Dictionary traces it to 1725, while "rarebit" wasn't used until 60 years later.

Makes 4 servings

3 tablespoons butter

12 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1/3 to 1/2 cup beer or ale (I like Harp lager), at room temperature

1 tablespoon ground mustard seed

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat. Whisk in cheese a small handful at a time, melting completely before adding next handful, and whisk in a bit of beer as needed to keep the mixture liquid. Add additional beer in small increments until mixture is about the consistency of a thick sauce or gravy. Whisk in remaining ingredients.

Pour over toast or toasted English muffins — my favorite because the holes capture the cheese.

Note: Depending on the cheese and your preferred consistency, you may use more or less beer.

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