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
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
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