Sharp cheddar, microbrewed ale and apple slices elevate this open-faced grilled sandwich to a chic dinner on the fly. A peppery watercress salad counters the richness of the cheese topping. If you’re a vegetarian, be sure to check the label on the Worcestershire sauce, as many brands contain anchovies, although vegetarian versions are available at most health food stores and many gourmet grocers. This recipe is easily adaptable for entertaining. To make a wintry first course for a party of 8, follow the recipe, but omit the romaine. Arrange the toasts on a platter or individual plates.
Welsh Rarebit with Tangy Watercress Salad
1 loaf (1 lb./500 g) crusty country bread, cut into 8 thick slices
1 apple, preferably Fuji, cored and thinly sliced
1 bunch (about 2 1/4 cups/2 1/4 oz.) watercress, tough stems removed
1 1/2 cups (1 1/2 oz./45 g) chopped romaine lettuce
1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
Fleur de sel or flaky sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) pale ale
2 tsp. vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. whole-grain mustard
1/2 lb. (250 g) aged cheddar cheese, shredded
Place a rack in the top third of the oven, about 4 inches (10 cm) below the broiling element, and preheat the broiler.
On a rimmed baking sheet, arrange the bread slices in a single layer and broil until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and leave the broiler on. Arrange the apple slices in even layers on top of the bread slices; set aside. In a large bowl, toss the watercress and romaine with the oil and lemon juice and season to taste with fleur de sel and pepper; set aside.
In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the beer and cook until the mixture is thick and bubbly, about 1 minute. Reduce the heat to low and add the Worcestershire sauce, mustard and a handful of the cheese. Cook until the cheese has melted, whisking in only one direction to prevent the sauce from becoming stringy. Continue adding the cheese by the handful and stirring it until melted before adding the next handful, until all of the cheese has been added and melted. The mixture will be very thick and pastelike.
Working quickly, spread the cheese mixture evenly over the apples. Broil until the cheese is bubbly and browned in places, about 1 minute. Place 2 cheese toasts on each plate, top with a big mound of salad and serve immediately. Serves 4.
Find more simple, healthy meals for every night of the week
in our book Weeknight Vegetarian, by Ivy Manning.