Calas, the traditional New Orleans treat, are deep-fried rice balls that were a popular breakfast food sold by Creole street vendors in the late 19th century. Another Lowcountry favorite, grit fritters, are cold grits mixed with savory ingredients like bacon or cheese and fried in small balls and served as a side dish. Here are my two favorite (and incredibly easy!) recipes:
- 2 cups cooked, cold rice
- ½ cup flour
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Dash nutmeg
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
- Vegetable oil (for deep frying)
- Powdered sugar, for dusting
Make sure the rice is cold or at least room temperature because if the rice is too hot, the sugar will dissolve into it, and the Calas won't hold together properly. We normally use leftover rice for this recipe. For this post, I actually used leftover saffron rice. The saffron gave the Calas a gorgeous yellow color and a subtle flavor that complimented the nutmeg!
Stir the rice to remove clumps and then add all the dry ingredients. Mix together with the rice. Then using a smearing motion with the back of the spoon, blend in the eggs and vanilla so there are no dry spots.
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit and line a cookie sheet in paper towels. Pour enough oil into a large saucepan to come halfway up the sides of the pan and heat over high heat until oil reaches 360 degrees Fahrenheit.
Form the Calas into quenelles with two large tablespoons and drop them in by tipping the head of the spoon toward the oil and pushing the batter off from the back, rounding it into a cute egg shape. When the Calas go in the hot oil, they should float and be surrounded by sizzling bubbles.
Work in batches, being sure to give them plenty of room to float around. Don’t put too many in at a time or they may stick together. Cook the Calas for about 3 minutes each, turning once to ensure that they are nicely browned on all sides. Fry them until they are the color of good donuts, barely past golden brown, but not much darker.
Remove them with a slotted spoon or wire skimmer, drain them well on several sheets of paper towel, and dust them generously with powdered sugar. For authenticity be sure to call out "Belle Calas, tout chaud!" which means “beautiful Calas, very hot!”
Herbed Grit Fritters
2 cups Water
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup stone-ground grits
5.2 oz. Boursin Cheese (we used garlic-herb flavor)
Flour for coating
Vegetable oil for frying
In small saucepan, bring water and salt to a boil, slowly stir in grits and cook for 6-8 minutes until very thick. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool, about 5 minutes. Fold Boursin cheese into the grits and mix thoroughly and then place mixture in refrigerator until cold.
Preheat your oven and heat your oil as directed above. Roll the cheese grits mixture into 1” balls, and then roll each ball in flour. Use a slotted spoon or wire skimmer to gently lower grit fritters in the hot oil. Don’t put too many in at a time because they may stick together if crowded. Cook the fritters for 2-3 minutes each, turning once to ensure that they are nicely browned on all sides.
Again using a wire skimmer or slotted spoon, remove fritters from the oil and place on the paper towels and place in the preheated oven to stay warm while you make the remaining fritters. Serve hot as a side dish, that is if they make it to the table.