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Elements / One ingredient, one dish

Porter beer has long lived in the shadow of its more famous cousin, stout. They're both dark, thick beers that drink like a meal in a glass, typically made using a roasted malt that lends a smoky character to the finished brew.

Porter tends to be thinner and a touch sweeter than stout, though porters come in numerous subtypes that range from bitter to near-chocolate in flavor. There's even a class of "honey" porters that some beer aficionados would classify as a drinkable dessert.

Because of its robust flavor, porter finds its way into soups, sauces and even ice cream. It's used to flavor cakes and braise beef into dark, pungent stew.

With the rebirth of craft brewing in the United States, there are a dizzying array of American porters to try. Catamount, Anchor, Smuttynose and Sierra Nevada all make porters; locally, Southern Tier in Chautauqua County produces a porter.

Hefty drink: Porter reputedly got its name in London, where some of its biggest fans worked as railway porters. Since some versions of the brew had alcohol levels as high as 7 percent, a busy worker could drink less but remain fortified.

Respect elders: Though stouts like Guinness remain more popular today, there would be no stout without porter. Stout started out as a darker porter, called "stout porter," before the name was shortened.

Here, porter flavors Alton Brown's version of Welsh Rarebit, a rich cheese sauce that's draped over rye toast or other rustic bread. It can be served immediately, or broiled to a bubbly finish first.

> Welsh Rarebit

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup porter beer

3/4 cup heavy cream

6 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) shredded sharp Cheddar

2 drops hot sauce

6 to 8 slices toasted rye bread

2 tomatoes, thinly sliced

In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Cook, whisking constantly for 2 to 3 minutes, being careful not to brown the flour.

Whisk in mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper until smooth. Add beer and whisk to combine. Pour in cream and whisk until well combined and smooth.

Gradually add cheese, stirring constantly, until cheese melts and sauce is smooth; this will take 4 to 5 minutes. Add hot sauce. Pour over toast.

Top with tomato slices and run under preheated broiler until browned and bubbly.

Inspiration: Alton Brown's "Good Eats."


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