I noticed the other day that in some ways I have been feeling like I am in a bit of a rut lately. It is hard to explain. The days are short, and yet we are both super busy with our work, day to day life; yet everything has a level of lackadaisical to it. It is as though there have been a case of the “blahs” casted over me. I know some would attribute this to January or winter, and I was beginning to believe that might be true. That was until I was reading through at an Indian cookbook I received as a gift. There it was right in front of me. I was planning to go to India for the past six months and postponed those plans after our most recent voyage out of the states. Let me just say that it left us stressed, and exhausted. To some that may seem like all the more reason to go away again. Unfortunately, we knew we were just not mentally ready for a long voyage of that nature.
Then I realized that last year this time we were in New Orleans. It was the first time I visited that beautiful city, and we enjoyed every bit of it. At that moment I put down the Indian cook book and started looking into all the foods we enjoyed while we were in New Orleans. There was the ever famous Beignets, Cheesy Grits, Praline Bacon, Stewed Okra, and a personal favorite: Calas! I’m sure you are wondering what this is. Calas are somewhat of a rice fritter. The history of the Cala dates back to plantation times, they were made by slaves and sold on the city streets on their day off. The money they earned from selling these was put towards buying themselves their freedom. As time passed the Calas were still made, but usually for more celebratory times. Today you can often find them on menus at restaurants from time to time.
In researching recipes about the Calas I found lots of differences. Some were like fried rice patty cakes, some were leavened with baking powder, and a few recipes used yeast. In making my own I opted for a yeast version. I imagined they would be light and airy in texture, and the result was just that. Light, airy, fluffy, with the tiniest bit of chew from the rice. I made the batter for the Calas early in the day and let the yeast work it’s magic. When we were through with dinner that night I heated up some oil and fried them off. While still very hot and warm I dusted them with powdered sugar. Biting into them I was super pleased. They were everything I thought they would be like. They were much fluffier than the ones I had when I was in New Orleans, and had the tiniest bit of subtle sweetness. They were a great ending to our meal, and a perfect pick me up from the blah mood I have been in. A trip to India may have been pushed back a bit, but Calas are a great pick me up in the meantime.
Calas (serves 6 or more depending on size)
**Note: I am sure any type of rice is possible to use for this recipe. By tradition they use a medium grained rice…Although, something like a short grain, sticky rice might not be appropriate. You want the rice suspended in the batter and not clumped up. I did find in my research that a parboiled or instant rice is strongly not suggested.
2 1/4 tsp of active dry yeast
1/2 cup of warm water
2 cups of cooked and cooled rice (I used Basmati)
3 large eggs
1 tsp of vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups of flour (plus more if needed)
1/2 cup of light brown sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
Peanut oil (at least a pint)
First, place the yeast in a large mixing bowl. Cover the yeast with the warm water and let it dissolve and start to foam.
Next, add the rice, eggs, and vanilla to the yeast and stir it well. Over the top of this add your flour, brown sugar, and sea salt. Stir it together well. It will seem gloopy and spongy, that is normal. You are looking that you can scoop the batter up with a spoon and scrape it off with another spoon smoothly.
Then, cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and let it rest at room temperature (and away from any draft) for about 4 hours, or double in size. At this point check again that the batter is scoopable with two spoons. If you feel that the dough is too wet you can stir in a bit more flour…Try to do this no more that 2 tbsp at a time.
Finally, add the oil to a 4 quart pan and heat it to 350 degrees. (You can use a deep fryer if you have one.) When the oil is ready, drop the batter by the spoonful and fry until they are golden and flip them over until they are equally golden on the other side. (Be sure to keep an eye on your oil temperature as you do not want it to get too hot or it will burn your calas.) Remove from the oil and place on a paper towel lined plate to drain. Dust the calas with powdered sugar and serve while hot, and enjoy!
***Note: I fried off half the batter and placed the remainder batter in a sealed plastic container at least double the size of the batter. I stored the batter in the refrigerator and fried it off two days later. It did expand a bit more as it rested in the refrigerator, and it fried off just as well as it did before. Although I would not let the batter sit much longer than that, because the batter has a tendency to begin to have a sour dough taste to it.