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Face it: It's time to open up

The concept of open-faced sandwiches runs the gambit from simple – think broiled cheese on toast – to more complex, such as a flavorful layering of fresh avocados, tuna salad and sliced tomatoes. Falling in the middle for its ease of preparation and simple ingredients is this classic Welsh Rarebit, which is nothing more, really, than a cheese sauce with a couple of egg yolks and Worcestershire sauce whisked in for additional flavor and texture. For a complementary beverage, consider a smooth-yet refreshing stout, which is the perfect complement for this cheesy-toasty dish.

Jan Roberts-Dominguez, for the Gazette-Times

I’ve always enjoyed the concept of an open-faced sandwich for one reason or another. In my early years when anything more exotic than hamburger was disdained, I appreciated their openness, allowing for easy inspection of the meal. As an adult, I enjoy the respectability factor of the open-face. That is, the ability to legally eat with your fingers and not get sent to your room, even if you really make a mess.

And finally, from a parent’s perspective, you have to appreciate how easily open-face sandwiches become a meal. They are profoundly easy to assemble: bread or toast, topped with something tasty and satisfying — I can usually cull at least half a dozen likely topping candidates from pantry and fridge. Then, bam! What’s a parent not to like when it comes to assembling quick and simple meals for the kiddos before heading off to soccer practice?

Tuna and cheese — with some zesty condiments stirred in if the young palate will tolerate it — spread on whole wheat bread and broiled until the cheese has melted into a caramelized goodness is a great stand-by. Throw avocado slices on top for a healthy, trendy touch.

Then there’s the Baloney boat, conceived by my father in desperation as deputy chief cook, while mom was at PTA: slap a slice of baloney on bread, slide it into the oven to broil until the bread turns golden around the edges and the baloney amazingly curls upward, forming a circular boat. This became the perfect vessel for just a slice of cheese (back under the broiler for a few minutes to melt the cheese) and a dollop of mustard. Kids are wowed by such simple culinary cleverness.

But for Take Me Back to a Kinder More Genteel Time, my all-time favorite open faced sandwich has to be the Welsh Rarebit. On many Sundays, my grandmother (who lived with us) would host her two sisters, my great aunts Meg and Joey, for lunch. If there was no left-over roast beef or chicken to make into some sort of mid-day re-past, then the most delectable fall-back offering of all was said Rarebit. I didn’t know that’s what it was called at the time. I had to become an adult Googling the concoction before I figured that out. It always began with the heating of a little milk in a saucepan. Grandma would then sprinkle in some shavings of a hearty Cheddar cheese and stir and stir until it became saucy and smooth. Then she would crack an egg or two into the mixture which initially confounded my sense of how cooking worked, because the immediate reaction of the lovely, creamy cheese sauce as she vigorously stirred and stirred, was for it to curdle into glistening clumps. Sort of like scrambled eggs, but much grainier. And cheesier, of course. Why would someone do that to a cheese sauce? But my first bite explained why. So delicious and satisfying.

She would bring the pot to the table for communal scooping and slathering of the rarebit onto our prepared slices of toast. Worcestershire sauce was available because several dashes of it complemented the cheesy flavor so well.

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And that was it. A simple mid-day meal sitting atop a humble piece of toast.

You can do that!

Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis food writer, artist and author of “Oregon Hazelnut Country, the Food, the Drink, the Spirit,” and four other cookbooks. Readers can contact her by email at or find additional recipes and food tips on her blog at


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