My husband, Jerry and I recently had the pleasure of visiting the beautiful central coast of California. While there, we toured the William Randolph Hearst castle in San Simeon. To say the story of Hearst’s life, the castle, grounds, and history are spectacular is an understatement. Jerry and I did the Guest House and Kitchen Tour. I became fascinated with the story of life at Castle in the Clouds, also known as Casa Grande.
One of William Randolph Hearst’s, known as The Chief, favorite late night snacks, which he often made himself at 2:00 am, is Welsh Rarebit. Originally known in the 18th century as Welsh Rabbit, so named to put down the poorer class who could not afford meat was changed somewhere along the line to Rarebit since it didn’t have any rabbit in the dish. It is still popular throughout the British Isles and even has it’s own national holiday on September 3–National Welsh Rarebit Day!
There are hundreds of recipes for Welsh Rarebit with endless variations, but I decided to stick pretty close to The Chief’s own recipe. It is more than melted cheese on toast. It contains butter, cheese, beer, dry mustard, Worcestershire sauce, a dash of cayenne pepper and is served over crackers or toast. Since everything eaten at The Castle was grown right there, I knew The Chief would not be using store-bought bread so decided to make my Mom’s wonderful recipe for plain old White Bread.
Here is a quote from William Randolph Hearst, Jr.:
Practically all of the perishable food – beef and venison, all sorts of poultry, eggs, most of the fish, vegetables, and fruits were raised, shot, caught or grown and eaten right there on the place, which, of course, contributes a great deal to the savory result.
The cooking was, with the exception of a very few dishes, just plain American home cooking. By this I don’t mean Grandma Hearst or Mom did it themselves, but I do mean that there were a minimum of dishes done in a fancy French or Italian style.
I learned one exception to the plain, simple food was that The Chief loved Pressed Duck which is a very fancy French creation, best left for another blog!
The huge kitchen at the Castle looked as if the staff had just stepped out.
Baked goods were displayed on counters and in the oven.
This is the largest mixer I have ever seen.
I could almost hear the cooks chatting and laughing as they prepared delicious, but simple meals.
This little room right off the kitchen is where the staff ate. The main dining room is a bit bigger. The main dining room, now called The Refectory, is 72 feet long x 27 feet wide with a ceiling height of 27 feet.
I could go on forever about La Cuesta Encantada (The Enchanted Hill), but we are hear to talk about Welsh Rarebit!
This simple dish has some complex flavors from the dried mustard, beer and paprika. My husband was not crazy about it, but I was. He did help me cook, though, which is always appreciated.
You start the dish by melting a little butter in a double boiler and then add 1 lb. of grated yellow cheddar cheese. Once melted, slowly add the beer.
Stir vigorously to get a creamy texture.
When the beer and cheese are completely blended, add the seasoning. Add an egg and stir until very well combined. That’s it! Serve over crackers or toast. Some recipes call for grilling the top of the “sandwich” so it’s more like an open-faced grilled cheese. I chose not to grill, as did The Chief, but topped with asparagus.
You could also top with tomatoes, mushrooms or just leave it plain. This cheesy sauce would be excellent with macaroni or used in place of a Hollandaise. Use your imagination!
This is a copied photo of the original kitchen staff at Hearst Castle from The Castle Cookbook. The book, written by Marjorie Collord and Ann Miller Lopez is filled with wonderful recipes and stories about this enchanted residence. Both ladies worked at the Castle for many years.
CHRISTMAS IS JUST 2 WEEKS AWAY!
WHAT ARE YOU COOKING FOR THE HOLIDAY?
William Randolph Hearst's Welsh Rarebit
- 1 Tbsp. Butter
- 1 lb. Cheddar Cheese, grated I used yellow cheddar. Mr. Hearst was not specific in his recipe.
- 2/3 cup Beer, warm and open Again The Chief did not specify what type of beer. I used Pacifico.
- 1 tsp. Dry Mustard
- 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- Dash Cayenne pepper
- 1/4 tsp. Paprika
- Crisp crackers or toast for serving.
In a chafing dish or large double boiler placed over simmering water, melt the butter.
Add the grated cheese and stir until it begins to melt, then slowly add the beer, stirring.
Add the seasonings.
Add an egg and stir until it is combined with the mixture.
Serve over crackers or toast as soon as it is ready.
I topped with steamed asparagus. Some recipes call for broiling the top so the cheese gets crispy. William Randolph Hearst's recipe did not so I left the cheese sauce soft and goopy.