Adrienne Cheatman changes things up with some savory, rustic sugar and spice dusted calas.
Everyone has heard of beignets, but Cheatham say it’s time for a resurgence of their lesser-known cousin, calas.
From the West African Nupe word for “fried cake,” these little fritters are formed from sweetened and spiced rice. They were commonly sold by African American vendors in New Orleans’s French Quarter in the mid-1700s.
In fact, during the days of slavery, many women were able to buy their freedom with the money they earned selling calas and café au lait on the side.
Makes about 2 dozen calas
2 cups white rice
1 tablespoon orange zest
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup flour
⅓ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus a pinch
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
⅓ cup powdered sugar
- Fill a wide, shallow pot with oil, about 2 inches deep, for frying. Heat oil to 360 degrees over medium-low heat while you make the batter.
- In a large microwave-safe bowl, combine rice, orange zest, cinnamon, and allspice. Microwave for 30 seconds or until rice is a little steamy and the orange zest is aromatic.
- Mix in flour, granulated sugar, and salt with a fork so rice grains separate and get coated in flour. Let mixture cool slightly, then mix in the baking powder. Set aside.
- In another medium bowl, whisk eggs and vanilla for 30 to 45 seconds, or until eggs are lightened in color and have an airy foam on top. Use a spoon to stir the eggs into rice mixture until thoroughly combined.
- Before you start frying, get the following items ready: Two spoons to drop the batter into the oil, a slotted spoon to remove the calas from the oil, a paper towel-lined tray or plate, and a basket strainer or sifter for the powdered sugar.
- When the oil has reached 360 degrees, use one spoon to scoop batter from bowl. Hold it right above the surface of the oil and use the other spoon to carefully scrape the batter down into the oil (this will not only help shape the calas, but also keep the batter from splashing hot oil on you!). Repeat with as many calas as you can fit without overcrowding in the pot. Work in batches if needed.
- Use slotted spoon to flip calas once they have browned on one side, about 2 minutes per side. Adjust heat as needed to prevent the temperature from dropping below 360 degrees.
- When calas are GBD (golden brown and delicious) all over, use slotted spoon to transfer them to your paper towel-lined tray, and immediately sprinkle them with a layer of powdered sugar while piping hot. Repeat with the remaining calas, transfer to a serving plate, and sift any remaining sugar over the full plate of calas to pile it on, French Quarter style
- Recipe by Adrienne Cheatham, <i>Sunday Best: Cooking Up the Weekend Spirit Every Day</i> (Clarkson Potter/Publishers) Copyright ©2022