At our last FRANK, we wanted to serve a few Creole and Cajun classics that would be unfamiliar to the majority of our diners. After all, everyone knows beignets, etouffee, gumbo, jambalaya, and boudin. Calas (pronounced cah-LAHS) turned out to be a perfect option. These lovely little yeast-risen rice fritters were typically eaten at breakfast time with cane syrup and cafe au lait. The African slaves, who introduced conventional brown/white rice to America, taught us how to grow it, and how to cook with it, were the ones who originated this recipe…a resourceful way to use up leftover rice from dinner the night before. The Creoles adopted it as their own and it was the go-to breakfast food for them for centuries. Nowadays, calas has faded into near-oblivion, which is a shame, because it’s so easy to make and tastes delicious!
I’m going to give you this recipe in 3 different ingredient increments, based on how much leftover rice you have. (1 cup – 2 cups – 3 cups…so if you have 2 cups of rice, you’ll use the middle number for each ingredient, etc.) Of course, you can make rice specifically for this recipe if you want to. So, to start, get your leftover rice:
1 cup – 2 cups – or 3 cups leftover rice (at room temperature)
In a small bowl, combine:
2 Tbsp – 1/4 cup – 1/3 cup warm water
3/4 tsp – 1 1/2 tsp – 1 packet (2 1/4 tsp) yeast
Stir to dissolve the yeast, then pour over the rice. Toss well with your fingers, then cover with plastic wrap and let it sit in a warm place overnight.
The next morning, add:
1 – 2 – 3 eggs
2 Tbsp – 1/4 cup – 1/2 cup sugar
pinch – 1/4 tsp – 1/2 tsp salt
cinnamon and nutmeg, to taste
Stir well, then taste for seasoning. Then add:
1/2 cup – 1 cup – 1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
Stir until the rice has made a thick paste. Cover and let it rise for 30 minutes to an hour while you preheat your fry oil. You can use your deep fryer, or just a couple of inches of canola oil in a small pot, depending on how many you need to fry. Preheat the oven to 200F to keep the calases warm after you fry them. You want to shoot for a temp about 350F. Don’t fake it! Use your thermometer if you don’t have a thermostat-controlled deep fryer.
Drop the batter into the hot oil. I use my little ice cream scoop for this, but you can also do it the old-fashioned way by dropping it from a spoon. The fritters will sit at the bottom of the oil for a bit, then they will float to the surface. (If they don’t, give them a nudge as they may have stuck to the bottom of the pot or the fry basket.)
Once they float to the top, keep them rotating in the hot oil so that they cook evenly. When they are golden brown and crisp all around, remove them to a cooling rack turned upside down over a paper towel to drain.
Keep fried calases in the warm oven until you’re ready to serve. Either sprinkle them with powdered sugar, or drizzle them with cane syrup or maple syrup, and you’ll have a VERY happy crowd! (At FRANK, we served them for dessert with beignets and pecan praline ice cream. Big hit.)
Feel free to comment below, especially if your family had any similar recipe they used with yeast-risen rice!