Calas are sweet NOLA treat
In the old Creole Vieux Carré, the musical cries of vendors, selling their wares or services, were heard at all times of day. The milk man, fruit peddler, the chimney sweep, knife sharpeners, and the cala lady had a loud and recognizable call, as they made their daily trek through the streets. Their calls were usually in French and often described how good their services or treats might be. The woman who carried a huge, cloth covered basket of freshly cooked rice cakes would be heard calling, “Belle Cala, Tout Chaud” (Nice Calas, Very Hot). Usually a black woman wearing a brightly colored (tin-yon) on her head, the “cala lady” would fry her cakes very early and wrap them in towels in her basket. Her call would bring servants running to buy the hot rice cakes to serve their “master” or “mistress” with morning coffee. Calas were also made at home, and, in addition to breakfast fare, were often served as a snack with hot chocolate or as a hot dessert, with plenty of powdered sugar or cane syrup.
I had been wanting to make some calas and finally got to business the other morning and made some. I found a recipe in the February 2018 issue of ‘The Local Palate.’ They are really a cousin to the beignet and perhaps are a mixture of a doughnut, hush puppy, and rice pudding. They are very good and pretty simple to make. So if you want to kick up your breakfast a bit some morning try this recipe.
From ‘The Local Palate’ February 2018.
Makes 3 dozen calas
Note: You will need a deep-fry thermometer for this recipe.
½ cup long grain rice (Mahatama brand is recommended)
Peanut oil for frying
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Steen’s cane syrup and powdered sugar, for serving
Bring 1 cup water and a pinch of salt to a boil in a small saucepan. Add rice, stir once, reduce heat to low, and cover the pan, cooking 18 to 20 minutes, or until the grains of rice are plump and can be fluffed with a fork. Turn rice out onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and cool for 15 minutes, then transfer to a plastic container (don’t pack it in). Cover with plastic wrap and poke a few holes in the top. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours, or up to 2 days.
In a large pot fitted with a deep-fry thermometer over medium heat, pour peanut oil to a depth of 2 ½ to 3 inches. Heat until thermometer registers 350 to 360 degrees. Line a plate with paper towels and set aside.
While the oil heats, prepare the batter. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and cinnamon. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat the eggs, sugar, and vanilla on high speed until foamy and tripled in volume, 1 ½ to 2 minutes. Sift in half the dry ingredients, add the salt, and mix on low speed until only a few dry streaks remain. Stir in remaining dry ingredients and mix on low speed for a few turns, then add the rice and mix until the fritter batter just comes together into a loose, roughly textured ball.
When oil is hot, dip a teaspoon into the hot oil, then into the batter to scoop out a heaping teaspoonful. Hold the spoon close to the oil and let the batter roll into the oil. Repeat with remaining batter. Using a slotted spoon, turn and baste fritters occasionally until they’re golden brown on all sides. (To avoid crowding the pot, fry in a few batches). Adjust heat as needed to ensure oil temperature stays at 350 degrees. Once fritters are golden brown, transfer them to prepared plate to cool slightly. Serve warm, drizzled with cane syrup.