San Antonio and New Orleans were founded at the same time,  so many food traditions related to European and Catholic roots are hallmarks of cuisine in both cities.  I love discovering the links between the two cities, and learning new recipes along the way.  One of my favorite little cookbooks documents the cookery of the Old Ursuline Convent on Chartres Street.  The Sisters were part of the Parish established in 1720 in what became the French Quarter.  They performed many tasks– caring for the sick, teaching reading and writing and silk making. 

But by far their most lasting legacy is their adaptation of French cooking to local ingredients and techniques.   They brought with them recipes for such things as pralines– a popular treat in the region of Orleans, France– and began making them with pecans (a local staple) instead of almonds, which were not available in Louisiana at the time.  They learned how to work with local ingredients from the Indians of the region, inventing such foods as Croquettes de Mais (later called hush puppies).   

“Who would imagine that this small group of teachers could exert so strong and so lasting an influence upon the cuisine of New Orleans!” — from the foreword

This cookbook is a wonderful act of preservation of Creole cooking and culinary history. 

I also love this cookbook because it sometimes gives little to no instructions.  Or, at least, the instructions never include detailed descriptions of how things should look or feel, or exacting and intimidating precision.  Some of my favorite meals are in here, and I hope to present them in the next few weeks, since my kitchen is beginning to become functional again as the remodel comes to an end.  I will return to being your “Hostess with flair” as best as I can (I have already accomplished three of the ten steps outlined at the back of the cookbook– “cook a thick gumbo” check, “impress your friends with a New Orleans specialty entrée” chicken and dumplings– check!  and now the “French Frying” method for Calas.)

Shrove Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, is the day we are supposed to eat rich foods before Lent.  Pancakes are traditional in many places, as they are made with eggs, milk, butter, etc.  I was thinking of making you pancakes, but had another idea when I saw the leftover rice in my refrigerator.

Calas are a fritter made with rice and spices. 

They have a wonderful chewy texture. 

They used to be served by street vendors in New Orleans, but I don’t think they have been for a long time.  You can find them in restaurants that serve Creole breakfast.  They are often served with grits.  They are wonderful with jam, or maple syrup. 

The recipe below is very basic, and I think you could let your imagination run wild with small additions.  Orange zest, pecans, or raisins would be my choice.  Dont skimp on the fresh nutmeg.

This recipe is the last recipe in the cookbook, and has a mysterious note accompanying:

“Recipe dictated by Pouponne D’Antilly– 1809-87– to her mistress Blanche Livaudais.”  I would like someone to dictate my recipes to in my old age.

CALAS

adapted from Recipes and Reminiscences of New Orleans, recipe credited to Myldred Masson Costa

1 and 1/2 cups cooked rice (soft, not cold)

3 eggs

1 and 1/2 cups bread flour (self-rising)

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

Fresh gated nutmeg to taste

1 tsp. vanilla added

1/4 cup warm milk

Canola oil for frying

Powdered sugar with macerated vanilla bean

Mix together the rice, eggs, flour, sugar, salt, and nutmeg until very smooth. Add the milk a little at a time, but do not let the mixture get too wet.  It needs to be very thick.  Heat the canola oil until drops of water pop, but not splatter out of the pan.  You need about 1/2 to 1 inch depth of oil.  Use a tablespoon to drop batter into the hot oil (I used a 1 oz. scoop with a release handle).  Amazingly, if your oil is the right temperature, they will not stick to the bottom.  But nudge them a bit to make sure just after they go in.  Cook until golden, and turn using a slotted spoon.  Lay them on some paper towels, and then sprinkle with powdered sugar.

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