13 August 2012

Dream of the Rarebit Fiend

From 1904-1913, Windsor McCay drew Dream of the Rarebit Fiend. Every comic strip had the same setup: somebody has a bad dream and wakes up in the last panel to blame it on Welsh rarebit (toast topped with a savory cheese and beer sauce). What made it special was the artwork, which became more and more surreal as the dream progressed and incorporated lots of tiny details. During the same time he was drawing the better known and more popular Little Nemo in Slumberland, which also explored dreams.

Originally, the strip was supposed to be about nightmares induced by tobacco cravings, but the newspaper made him change it to Welsh rarebit, leading generations to wonder why it's so bad to eat cheese toast right before bed. While perusing some of these lovely drawings, I found myself with all the ingredients necessary to make the legendary dish, but I didn't want to make mere toast. Why not try something different?

I thought that using a rarebit sauce for macaroni and cheese would be neat, but it turns out that many others (including Rachel Ray) had the idea first. However, I could still put another twist on it.

This past week the grocery store had a freezer case full of cooked lobsters on sale. These are usually older and slower lobsters that are steamed and frozen rather than throwing them out. Not quite as good as fresh, live lobsters, but perfect for use in recipes like lobster rolls or pasta applications. I love lobster macaroni and cheese, and thought that it would be particularly good with a rarebit sauce. For the sauce I used half Australian white cheddar and half Italian fontina, fortified with the usual seasonings and a good dose of a Sam Adams IPA. I boiled up a batch of farfalle, tossed it all together with the shredded lobster meat, and sprinkled breadcrumbs on top. A little time in the oven, and we're ready.

It was rich and savory, buttery and delicious. I had intended for this to be a first course for dinner, but it proved to be so filling that I never got around to the second course. In the future I'd probably use crawfish tails and maybe not bake it, but rather toss the pasta, seafood, and sauce at the last minute before serving. And I'd also use a less bitter beer--the IPA was delicious, but probably not the perfect choice for this sauce.

Dreams that night: perfectly normal.

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