Calas

Belle Cala! Tout Chaud!

Under this cry was sold by the ancient Creole women in the French Quarter of New Orleans a delicious Rice Cake, which was eaten with the morning cup of Cafe au Lait. The “Cala Woman” was a daily figure on the streets till within the last two or three years. She went on her rounds in quaint bandana tignon, and carried on her head a covered bowl, in which were the dainty and hot Calas. Her cry, Belle Cala! Tout Chaud! would penetrate the morning air, and the olden Creole cooks would rush to the doors to get the first fresh, hot Calas to serve with the early morning cup of coffee. The “Cala Women” have almost all passed away.

But the custom of making Calas still remains. In many an ancient home the good housewife tells her daughters just how Tante Zizi made the Calas in her day, and so are preserved these ancient traditional recipes.

From one of the last of the olden “Cala Women”, one who has walked the streets of the French Quarter for fifty years and more, the Picayune has gotten the following established Creole recipe:

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Ingredients

  • ½ Cupful of Rice
  • 3 Cupfuls of Water, Boiling
  • 3 Eggs
  • ½ Cupful of Sugar
  • ½ Cake of Compressed Yeast
  • 3 Tablespoonfuls of Flour
  • ½ Teaspoonful of Grated Nutmeg
  • Powdered White Sugar
  • Boiling Lard

Method

Put three cups of water in a saucepan, and let it boil hard. Wash half a cup of Rice thoroughly, and drain and put into the boiling water. Let it boil till very soft and mushy. Take it out and set it to cool. When cold, mash well and mix with the yeast, which you have dissolved in a half cup of hot water. Set the Rice to rise over night. In the morning beat three eggs thoroughly, and add to the Rice, mixing and beating well. Add a half cup of sugar and three tablespoonfuls of flour, to make the Rice adhere. Mix well and beat thoroughly, bringing it to a thick batter. Set to rise for fifteen minutes longer. Then add about a half teaspoonful of grated nutmeg, and mix well. Have ready a frying pan, in which there is a sufficient quantity of lard boiling for the Rice Cakes to swim in it. Test by dropping in a small piece of bread. If it becomes a golden brown, the lard is ready, but if it burns or browns instantly it is too hot. The golden brown color is the true test. Take a large, deep spoon, and drop a spoonful at a time of the preparation into the boiling lard, remembering always that the Cake must not touch the bottom of the pan. Let it fry to a nice brown. The old “Cala Women” used to take the Calas piping hot, wrap them in a clean towel, basket or bowl, and rush through the streets with the welcome cry Belle Cala! Tout Chaud! ringing on the morning air. But in families the cook simply takes the Calas out of the frying pan and drains off the lard by laying in a colander or on heated pieces of brown paper. They are then placed in a hot dish, and sprinkled over with powdered white sugar, and eaten hot with Cafe au Lait. The above quantity will make six Cakes. Increase in proportion.

Calas may also be made of Rice flour. In olden days the “Cala Women” used to pound the Rice themselves in a mortar till they reduced it to a fine powder or flour. Then it was mixed and set to rise over night. If the Rice flour is used, one tablespoonful of wheat flour is sufficient to bind.

Often in large Creole families, where Rice is left over from the day before, the quantity is increased by adding a cup of well-sifted self-rising flour. But these Cakes, though very nice and palatable, are not the true Calas, which are made entirely of Rice, with only a little flour to bind, as directed above.

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