Toast of the Town

Rumor has it that toasted cheese was a favorite dish of Jane Austen as evidenced by the author’s own hand…

“We were greatly surprised by Edward Bridges company… It is impossible to do justice to the hospitality of his attentions towards me; he made a point of ordering toasted cheese for supper, entirely on my account.”
~Jane Austen, 27 August, 1805

Also referred to as rarebit, I could think of no better dish to prepare during my final wood stove cooking examination.

The recipe I selected was originally published in “Domestic Cookery (1829)

Grate three ounces of fat cheese, mix it with the yolk of two eggs, four ounces of grated bread and three ounces of butter; beat the whole well in a mortar, with a dessert spoonful of mustard and a little salt and pepper. Toast some bread, cut it in to proper pieces; lay the paste, as above, thick upon them, put them into a Dutch oven covered with a dish, till hot through, remove the dish, and let the cheese brown a little. Serve as hot as possible.

The modern adaptation:

1¼ cups cheddar or other hard cheese
2 hard-boiled egg yolks mashed
2-3 cups soft bread crumbs
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon mustard
Dash of salt and pepper
8 slices lightly toasted bread

1. Blend cheese, mashed egg yolks, bread crumbs, butter, mustard, salt, and pepper.
2. Spread paste on toast. Bake in 350º oven covered for 15 minutes. Remove cover for last 5 minutes to brown the cheese.

I used a dry mustard powder instead of wet mustard, and regular ground black pepper. A very light rye bread was used as the base and in the topping. A medium orange cheddar was provided for me to use, in the future I will use an old white cheddar to give the dish a little more bite and less of an orange hue. It took about 30 minutes to bake in a slow/medium wood stove oven. I was not able to get the top to brown up as I did not have a salamander on hand, but the result was still delicious.

Note: a salamander is an iron disc that is heated in the fire and used to brown the tops of food.

salamander

The stove was the ENSIGN model made by the United Nail & Foundry Co. in St. John’s Newfoundland. It has a very small fire box and burns through wood extremely fast. Although I had heard the oven runs hot, I had a difficult time getting it to reach a medium heat. Perhaps the cool, damp weather was having an influence on the temperature. No complaint mind you, cool weather is appreciated when wood stove cooking.

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Here is the star of the show, toasted cheese. This dish was a great choice for my examination, I passed with flying colors. I will certainly be making this in the future, it was buttery,savory and crunchy and hit all the right comfort food buttons. I can see why our Jane liked it so well.

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