As a port city, New Orleans is steeped in global influence, enjoying the contributions from a gamut of cultures, from Europe to Africa to the Caribbean. Take the beignet—one of many foodstuffs that arrived by way of France. While no doubt the most recognizable, there’s more to the fried dough than the powdered sugar-doused iteration of Café du Monde fame. At La Petite Grocery, Justin Devillier goes savory with blue crab filling, while David Guas, a native son who’s taken up residence in DC, digs deep in the Crescent City culinary archives for calas, a rice fritter with storied origins.
If you don’t have access to fresh crab for these beignets, don’t sweat it (and more importantly, Devillier says, don’t buy the canned stuff)—try shrimp or lobster instead. You can serve them with remoulade for dipping (La Petite riffs on fish and chips with a malt vinegar aioli), “but they really don’t need anything,” he says.
Cousin to the beignet, calas are breakfast fritters made with rice—“Louisiana’s most sacred ingredient,” Guas says. He describes calas as a “beignet, doughnut, hush puppy, and rice pudding all in one.” They date to the 1700s, when African women would walk the streets of New Orleans and sell the fried dough from baskets balanced on their heads.
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