Rice Calas

Joyeux Mardi Gras mes cheres!  It’s a cold and rainy day before Samedi Gras here in New Orleans — something outsiders don’t appreciate, that Mardi Gras weather is DICEY.  So rather than traipsing around the French Quarter in the cold rain, this Pirate is holed up in her warm galley making rice calas.  These are like, but in my mind, so far superior to the more well-known beignets.  More chewy and with some heft, the yeast flavor much more pronounced, and you can at least argue that they have some nutritional value even if the healthy rice eating cultures of the world generally don’t deep fry it.  Served with powdered sugar and strawberry jam, and a hot mug of chicory coffee, you will have no problem giving something up on Ash Wednesday, as your taste buds will be sated.

Rice Calas

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2 cups cooked  rice, warmer than room temperature
1 package dry yeast, softened in 1/2 cup warm water
2 teaspoons plus 1/4 cup sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
vegetable oil for frying
powdered sugar for serving
strawberry preserves, optional

Yet another use for leftover cooked rice — this one comes after fried rice, which is pretty much a weekly offering on Upward Wing.  But when you’re craving a warm treat this is the rice-based answer.  To start, mix the two teaspoons of sugar and the dissolved yeast into the rice and stir with a wooden spoon, mashing the rice a bit.  Cover the bowl (loose plastic wrap and a tea towel work well) and place in a warm spot to ferment overnight.  It won’t exactly rise, but the yeast will all get dissolved into the rice.

When ready to cook, stir the eggs, 1/4 cup sugar, flour, nutmeg, and salt into the rice mixture.  Beat this for a minute and then cover and set aside to let rise another 20-30 minutes. When you open it up, you will see lots of bubbles — sign the yeast is doing its thing!  Make sure the mixture is firm enough to mostly hold its shape when dropped by the spoonful and if it’s not beat in a bit more flour.

Heat cooking oil in a wide skillet until hot but not smoking — the recipe called for 2″ which would have better submerged the calas and probably is how the ones I’ve seen turn out more spherical like a donut hole, but I hate using and throwing out that much oil so I just went with about 1/2″ and got over the fact that my calas would be a little more flat.  Working in batches, drop batter by the tablespoon-full into the hot oil and fry 2-3 minutes for the first side, or until you start seeing a nice, golden brown underneath.  Then flip them and give them 1-2 minutes other side.

Drain on paper towels and try not to burn yourself if you can’t resist trying one piping hot!  Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with preserves.  According to Mme Susan Spicer’s history, these were sold by New Orleans street vendors in the 1800s–with the call “Calas, belles calas, tout chauds” as a way of using up leftover rice (since rice is at pretty much every meal in New Orleans).  They are much chewier and yeastier than regular flour-dough beignets — if you like beer (ahem, Pirate) you will vastly prefer these.

Enjoy as many of these as you can with a good cup of chicory coffee and laissez les bon temps rouler!  Tomorrow you can go back to green juice.

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