Monday, February 20, 2012

Freedom Fritters - Calas



From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite..."Calas, calas, belle calal. Tout chaud!" The cry is no longer heard on the streets of New Orleans and these sweet rice fritters, first sold in the Latin Quarter by slaves who carried them in baskets balanced on their heads, are slowly fading from culinary memory. Their death knell began during WWII when rationing prevented their being made for sale and they were never able to reclaim the audience who had loved them before the war. Custodians of the city's culinary history try to keep their story alive because rice, and by extension, calas, played a sometimes pivotal role in African-American history, cuisine and culture. Strangely, this humble fritter whose origins are in Ghana helped free some of the slaves who were brought to New Orleans. Before the Louisana Purchase, the Code Noir regulated the roles and relationships of blacks and whites. There were two rules in the Code that help explain the importance of calas to slaves living in the territory. Those who had the money could approach their owners and buy their freedom. The Code also mandated that slaves be given Sundays off. Many of the women spent the day making and selling calas and used that money to buy their freedom. While they are a historical footnote, the fritters are also delicious and if you enjoy beignets, you'll like these sweet rice morsels as well. They can be made with baking powder or yeast and the only trick to making them is to use cold rice so the grains won't clump together when the batter is mixed. This is the second of the three recipes I have for calas. The first can be found here. Today's recipe is a bit easier to make and I hope it will tempt more of you to give the fritters a try. They should be served with a dusting of confectioners' sugar or with cane syrup to please those who have a more demanding sweet tooth. Here's the recipe for freedom fritters.

Freedom Fritters - Calas
...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of David Guas and Raquel Pelzel

Ingredients:
1/2 cup long-grain white rice
Peanut oil for frying
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
Cane syrup for serving

Directions:
1) Bring 1 cup of water and a pinch of salt to a boil in a small saucepan. Add rice, stir once, reduce heat to low, and cover pan, cooking 18 to 20 minutes or until grains of rice are plump and fluff apart with a fork. Turn rice out onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper 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.
2) Pour enough peanut oil into a large pot to fill it to a 2 1/2- to 3-inch depth and bring to a temperature between 350°F and 360°F over medium heat. Line a plate with paper towels and set aside.
3) While oil heats up, place flour, baking powder, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Using a stand mixer or a hand mixer, beat eggs, sugar, and vanilla on high speed until foamy and tripled in volume, 1-1/2 to 2 minutes. Sift in half of dry ingredients, add salt, and mix on low speed until only a few dry streaks remain. Sift in remaining dry ingredients and mix on low speed for a few turns, then add rice and mix until fritter batter just comes together into a loose, roughly textured ball.
4) Once your oil is hot, dip a teaspoon in the hot oil, then into batter and scoop out a heaping teaspoonful. Hold spoon close to oil and let batter roll off and into oil. Repeat with remaining batter; using a slotted spoon, turn and baste fritters occasionally, allowing them to become golden brown on all sides. (Fry fritters in two batches if your pot becomes overcrowded.) If temperature of oil dips below 350 degrees F, increase heat to medium-high. Once fritters are golden brown, transfer them to prepared plate to cool slightly. Serve on a small plate drizzled with lots of cane syrup.Yield: 3 to 3-1/2 dozen calas.









One Year Ago Today: Lemon Thins















Two Years Ago Today: Shrimp Omelet from the Pearl River Delta

27 comments:

Michelle said...

You know, I just heard of these for the first time this week! So sheltered. They look delicious and I can't wait to try them.

Hovkonditorn said...

I have never heard of these freedom fritters, but they look delicious and there is also cinnamon in them, yummy!

Ginny said...

These look just perfect and delicious. I always thought fritters were shaped more like pancakes,does the word Calas mean it is more round shaped and puffy? I have always wanted to try a beingnet, but the closest I have ever come is something they serve at Olive Garden, but they don't call it that.

At Anna's kitchen table said...

That's a really interesting story behind these!
It's an intriguing recipe too, thanks for sharing!

Tanna at The Brick Street Bungalow said...

I can't believe that I've never heard of these! I can always look to you for an education... in food and folk. Thank you for both, Mary! They do sound so very good. blessings ~ tanna

Kim said...

I never heard of these either but I can assure you, these looks really good!

Susan..... said...

Great story Mary, thanks for posting it. I just love food history and I had never heard of these before.

"Va tutto bene"

Jenn said...

I've seen many fritters in my time, but never freedom fritters. I love the story behind these - and they look sooooo good!! Wish I had a plate full of them right now.

Shug said...

Hubby and I are making a trip to Lafayette tomorrow....I love stopping to enjoy some good ol' cajun food.
I might just have to ask for some Calas. I know we will eat at Pre Jeans,so hopefully they will have these on their menu...
Blessings
shug

Rita said...

What an interesting story; we went to New Orleans the year before Katrina, fell in love with that city.
Your fritters are beautiful!
Rita

bellini said...

I love a dish steeped in history Mary!

Sue/the view from great island said...

That story is fascinating, and makes me want to make these fritters. Of course I always get snagged by your links from past years, too ;)

JG said...

This is a good History lesson! I've never tasted Calas and they look delicious.
~Judy

StephenC said...

My only problem is that I do not deep-fry anything. I wonder if I made them more like patties if I could get away with a shallow fry.

nanny said...

New to me.....look and sound wonderful! Only fritters I have made are corn, served with fish.

Deelicious Sweets said...

These look really good! Good story!

Joanne said...

These remind me of zeppoles but New Orleans-ified!

Liesl said...

Great story behind these. What a fun dessert to serve, too.

ImSoVintage said...

Mary, these sound delicious. I love fritters of all kinds, so I know that I will really love these too.
Laura

Lenia said...

Never heard of these,but they seem so tasty!Have a lovely week!

Claudia said...

Fascinating what history can be gleaned from tasty morsels. And they do look tasty - this could be fun for Tuesday!

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

With Mardi Gras under way it's the perfect week for this perfect bite!

teresa said...

oh these look so good, i love that they're made with rice, delicious!

The Harried Cook said...

How interesting! The fritters look really delicious... I bet they taste great with that cinnamon hit! Thanks for sharing, Mary!

Judy said...

These look so delicious, Mary. I can't wait to give them a try.

What's next said...

I'll have to try these, I've heard of them while growing up around N.O. but never had them.

My Little Space said...

I have tried Japanese style rice fritter but not this. Love the crispy crust. Wish I can have a bite right now.
Kristy

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