This last stretch of winter has us longing for warm spring days. We’d gladly frolic around a metaphorical maypole if it meant we could grill outdoors and tend our herb gardens again. Alas, Mother Nature has other plans for us. This lady won’t give us a break to thaw our winter bones! Have no fear. We’ve got a solution to make you feel all warm and toasty inside – a bit of comfort in these final days of February. We’re talking about our very own version of Welsh Rarebit.
This dish came about in the midst of preparing a few years ago for the Mac & Cheese Challenge organized by Vermont Farmstead Cheese at Artisans’ Park in nearby Windsor, VT. We pulled an all-nighter and cooked enough mac & cheese to serve over 4,000 people that day. Phew! In true Jackson House fashion, we wanted to introduce a velvety texture while dishing out a healthier version of a traditionally heavy recipe. The modern science of binding salt proteins did the trick! Quick note: we took 3rd place out of about 20 entrants. Not too shabby for our first time competing!
For our Welsh Rarebit, we coat pieces of sourdough with a luxurious, silky cheese sauce and sprinkle sugared bacon, sweet onion, and roasted tomatoes on top. Are you saying to yourself, too heavy? Think again. We’ve perfected this recipe to be a healthier version of your favorite cheesy indulgences. Think: the same ooey-gooey goodness of nachos or fondue, but without all the guilt of a cheesy smorgasbord. The added chicken stock prevents this dish from being too heavy in calories. Instead, we maintain luxurious mouthfeel without all the heaviness.
The smell of melted cheese and bacon fills the kitchen as we slice sourdough and roast tomatoes. This is the kind of dish that smells so delicious, you can’t wait to plate and eat it. Nevertheless, some time and effort go into the process of making our Welsh Rarebit. Cheese and tomatoes are key ingredients to this recipe, the quality and freshness of which can elevate the dish completely. The bacon is also a separate, yet easy process. We use the Pecan Sugared Bacon recipe previously featured on the blog for our Welsh Rarebit as well!
We here at the Jackson House Inn use locally sourced ingredients from Vermont. As such, the Welsh Rarebit you’re served here features Jasper Hill cheese and Long Wind Farm tomatoes. The recipe below reflects generalized ingredients to accommodate accessibility for our at-home chefs.
Print recipe here.
410 g chicken or roasted vegetable stock 16.4 g sodium citrate
335 g cheese, grated: 185 g gruyere, 50 g blue, 100 g havarti
1 loaf of peasant or sourdough bread
24 tomatoes*, 1/8 inch sliced off of stem & bottom, 4 per serving
Fresh thyme leaves
1 sweet onion, thinly sliced and separated
6 slices sugared bacon, chopped
Microgreens or fresh chives, chopped
Balsamic to drizzle
*We highly recommend sourcing Campari tomatoes which you should be able to find at any “Whole Foods”-type market. They are larger than cherries, smaller than vine-ripened.
Keys to Success
There are three keys to the success of this recipe. The first is to use a full-flavored natural chicken or roasted vegetable stock
that has not been seasoned with salt. If using a store bought stock, we suggest reducing by a third to amp up the flavor profile. The second is the quality and blend of the cheeses. A majority of cheeses, when melted, separate leaving an oily cap. The sodium citrate is used as an emulsifier to blend the proteins of the cheese with the liquid for the sauce creating a silky, luxurious mouthfeel. It is derived from citric acid (from citrus fruits). The third is weight in grams. Precision is necessary to determine the sodium citrate ratio and the appropriate blending of cheeses (air impacts measuring by volume with grated cheeses).
Method for the Sauce
Heat stock to a medium simmer and add sodium citrate until fully dissolved (1 minute) . While simmering, add the cheeses to stock liquid. Whisk occasionally until melted (approx. 5 minutes) . When melted, use an immersion blender** to fully emulsify the stock/cheese mixture (3 – 4 minutes). The texture will become smooth and silky and will appear lighter in color when fully emulsified. The taste of the sauce should be completely blended, with a smooth texture. Put back on heat for about a minute to make silky, if need be. Maintain on low heat and stir occasionally. If thinning is needed, use water or milk.
**A regular blender will work. Just be careful with the hot liquid! Blend on medium speed (approx. 1 – 1.5 minutes).
Method for the Tomatoes
Preheat oven to lowest setting possible. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil and top with a cooling rack. Slice tomato stems & bottoms and arrange flat on rack. Lightly salt each tomato and let rest for 10-15 minutes. Lightly drizzle olive oil over each tomato segment. Sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves. Roast tomatoes for approx. 2- 3 hours, checking and rotating the sheet pan every 30 minutes. The size of tomatoes will dictate the length of roasting. You want a light char on the edges.
Choose a peasant or sourdough bread. Slice and toast both sides. Cut into desired-size cubes. Place 3/4 cup of toasted bread cubes in a shallow soup-like bowl. Ladle approx. 1/3 cup of cheese sauce evenly over cubes. Top with chopped bacon and onion slices. Add tomatoes. Ladle an additional 1/4 cup of cheese sauce. Garnish with fresh chopped chives or microgreens. Drizzle with balsamic. Serve immediately.
All photos c/o Kelby Zimmerman