It was kind of a peculiar summer here in Midcoast Maine. We had several stretches of less-than-perfect weather, which left us (and most of the people we know) wishing for the time to go by quickly, so we could get to the next few days of warm sun and being outdoors. Those days were so few and far between this year, though, that I think we accidentally wished our way right through summer and into the end of September.
Now, we’re starting the basic preparations for winter. The toys that we’ve allowed to litter the yard have all got to come in, the motorcycle has to get winterized, and it’s probably time to fix the faulty car window that we never minded creeping slowly downward all on its own when the weather was 85 degrees and sunny. With cooler weather coming, we have to find a plow guy, call pest control to keep the fieldmice away, and swap the screen doors for thick-glassed storm doors. And of course, we have to fill the oil tank, even as we resist the urge to turn the furnace on. It’s all afghans and space heaters, for now.
The looming winter has an upside, though: It allows us to turn the recipes on our website back to heartier, cozier, more comforting fare, an area of cooking in which I am much more comfortable. Jillian is a wizard with kale, white beans, poached fish, and bright summer sauces spiked with lemons and spicy peppers; light food for warmer months. I will always be more comfortable, it seems, with the dishes that are actively trying to kill me, including big burbling pots full of chili, beef stew, or in this case, liquefied cheese.
Welsh Rarebit is a dish I grew up with, and the combination of cheddar cheese sauce, bacon, and the last good tomatoes of the season triggers sensory memories of living in Tenants Harbor, the winter my parents heated a then-ramshackle, barely-insulated house with 14 cords of wood in a single, glowing-red cast iron woodstove. And now that the extra ten pounds I need to carry to keep me warm in the wintertime can be safely hidden by miles of flannel and hooded sweatshirts, it only made sense to stack all these flavors on an open-faced burger. You’re welcome.
- 2 tablespoons butter (1/4 stick)
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 8 ounces good cheddar, grated or chopped
- ¾ cup Guinness beer
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons dry mustard
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 pound 80/20 ground beef
- Two vine-ripened tomatoes, sliced
- 6 strips of bacon, sliced in half and cooked
- 2 Portuguese rolls, sliced in half
- Thickly sliced scallions or chives, to garnish
- Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Slowly add flour, stirring constantly, and cook over medium heat until toasted, about three minutes. Add cheese, beer, Worcestershire, mustard, paprika, and pepper and cook, stirring constantly, until cheese is melted and smooth, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Divide ground beef into thirds, and shape into hamburger patties slightly larger than your Portuguese rolls. Cook over medium-high heat, flipping as needed, to desired doneness and until brown on both sides. To assemble each burger: Place a cooked hamburger patty on one of the Portuguese roll halves. Top with 4 of the halved strips of bacon, sliced tomato, and cheese sauce. Garnish with sliced scallions or chopped chives.