I know what you are thinking, what the world needs is another macaroni and cheese recipe, but trust me, this one is a keeper!
This dish is a nod to a classic British dish: Welsh Rarebit. Welsh Rarebit is a delicious cheese on toast recipe made traditionally with ale and mustard. It is neither Welsh in origin or includes rabbit as an ingredient! Dating back to the 1700's, there is debate as to where the name comes from, but it does seems to be a corruption of the name Welsh Rabbit. Apparently the Welsh loved cheese and were forbidden to hunt on royal land (which was a vast majority of Wales at the time), so some witty English person came up with the name Welsh Rabbit for grilled cheese, the closest to rabbit the Welsh would get. I'm sure they were very proud of themselves.
However the name was born, the dish itself is wonderful. I have fond memories of my father, who was a chef, making it and the aroma filling the house. If you want to try making it, it is very easy. Pour some of the sauce from this recipe over toast and broil on low until golden. Top with a fried egg and you have Buck Rabbit.
Use the best quality cheddar and mustard in this dish. It will make a difference. I use Coleman's Mustard, which is a British import but is available in most American supermarkets. For the ale, again I used a British import but any ale will work.
I broil this dish instead of bake because of the Welsh Rarebit nod, but I broil all my macaroni and cheese dishes. I love the crispy brown top of the broiled version, and because the pan is only in the oven for a few minutes, the sauce stays creamy, not clumpy and sticky like in baked versions. Reheat the leftovers the next day and you have more traditional baked mac and cheese.
You can taste the ale in this dish, but do not worry about serving it to children at a pot luck. The alcohol burns off in the cooking.
Welsh Rarebit Macaroni and Cheese
4 Tbsp. salted butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup ale (I used Newcastle Brown Ale)
1/4 cup light cream
1 Tbsp. dry mustard (I use Coleman's Mustard)
1 egg, beaten
16 oz mature cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 Tsp. salt
1 Tsp. pepper
1 pound of elbow macaroni
Turn on the broiler to Low. Grease a 13x 9 inch baking pan.
This recipe moves quickly so I like to get all the ingredients measured and ready to go before I start.
Pu the water on and get the macaroni cooking. Aim to have it ready at the same time as the sauce.
In a large deep sided non stick skillet make the roux. Melt the butter and add the flour. Whisk together for several minutes on medium heat until cooked and the flour taste is gone, whisking constantly to prevent burning.
Add the milk, cream and ale and continue to whisk until combined. Add the mustard and continue to whisk until the sauce get nice and thick. Add a few tablespoons of the sauce to the beaten egg and whisk until smooth. The egg adds creaminess to the sauce. Add the mixture back into the pan and quickly whisk in. Add the cheese, saving about 1/2 a cup to sprinkle on the top before broiling. Turn the heat to low and stir in the cheese until melted. Season with the salt and pepper.
Add the macaroni to the pan and gently fold into the sauce until completely coated. Pour into the prepared baking dish, sprinkle with the remaining cheese and place on the middle rack of your oven. It will take just a few minutes for the cheese to get brown. Remove from the oven and let sit to cool slightly.