In our cooking series Quickies, we invite chefs, bartenders, and other personalities in the world of food and drink who are serious hustlers to share their tips and tricks for preparing quick, creative after-work meals. Every dish featured in Quickies takes under 30 minutes to make, but without sacrificing any deliciousness—these are tried-and-tested recipes for the super-busy who also happen to have impeccable taste.
Welsh rarebit is basically the midpoint between fondue and grilled cheese—which is to say, it's the perfect answer for your midnight munchies. And besides, it's made out of things you probably already have around: beer, cheese, and bread. If you can learn to whip it up quickly, you'll have an easy handle on your late-night cravings. That's where Nick Padilla, chef and owner of Brooklyn restaurants Alameda and the newly-opened Palace, comes in.
While Alameda, which bills itself as a modern bistro, serves seasonal new American food with cocktails and natural wine, its divier sibling Palace is the reincarnation of an old-school Brooklyn bar. Padilla had grown fond of the Palace, a neighborhood Irish pub in Greenpoint, after long shifts at Momofuku Ssam Bar early in his career. The Palace closed and sat on the market for a while, until Padilla and his business partners reopened the revitalized bar in early December.
Keeping the space close to its roots was a definite goal—and that meant not going too highbrow. "We’ve made it a point to make sure it was a place where guys who’ve been in the neighborhood for a long time feel comfortable," Padilla says. True to theme, the Palace's food menu is no-nonsense and full of "super savory snacky foods."
What you need to make Welsh rarebit is: bread (a day or two old is fine), sharp cheddar, beer, butter, flour, and some spices. Pickles are good on the side, but you'll still be satisfied without them.
In a large pot, Padilla makes a quick roux by melting down butter and whisking in flour until well-combined, then cooking the mixture for a few minutes. When it's light brown and smells toasty, he adds in the beer. At the Palace, they use Murphy's, though Guinness or any comparable dark beer will do the job. Once it's mixed together and slightly thickened, Padilla takes the pot off the heat and grates the cheese.
Go for a sharp cheddar, Padilla recommends, but he adds, "Don't go too fancy, otherwise it's going to break." With the pot back on the heat, add the grated cheese into the beer mixture, then stir; it'll look chunky, but give it some time. "Take your time letting it melt," Padilla says. "Don’t crank the heat—just be patient and it’ll happen eventually."
You'll know the cheese is thoroughly melted when the sauce looks very much like hot peanut butter. Take it off the heat and let it cool while you toast the bread. Here, Padilla adds cayenne, mustard powder, and Worcestershire to give it a little kick, then seasons with salt and pepper.
The move here is to make a lot of the cheese mixture. According to Padilla, it'll keep in the fridge for about a week. You might not use it all now, but make more and you'll be almost all the way towards Welsh rarebit when the cheese toastie cravings hit.
While the mixture cools, toast the bread. Padilla toasts the slices dry in a cast iron pan since they'll get cheese all over them anyway (add butter if you want something richer). Once the bread is lightly browned, Padilla takes the slices off the heat and spreads a generous layer of cheese sauce.
The finishing touch is to get the cheese sauce browned and toasty. Going next level, Padilla pulls a Searzall torch out of his bag and hits the top of each slice with a little fire, until the cheese bubbles and browns. At home, skip the blowtorch—especially after a night of imbibing. "A toaster oven is probably the best thing at home," Padilla says. "Those get super hot and you can get super close to the coils. Broilers at home are usually pretty hit or miss."
And that's it. He adds some pickle slices to the plate, and we tuck in. Each toast slice is crunchy, a little spicy, and super savory, and the sourness from the pickles wakes it all up. It's too early in the day for us to start drinking, but Padilla says, "I think with beer, that’s the right way. That’s the necessary accompaniment."
RECIPE: Easy Welsh Rarebit