Monday, January 28, 2013

New Orleans, Day 2 - Frozen Creole Cream Cheese and Calas

Yes, I'm still writing up that 4-course meal at the New Orleans Cooking School.  This is the last course and needs its own post to acknowledge properly.  At the Crescent City Farmer's Market that morning, Poppy bought several tubs of Creole Cream Cheese and told us the story of how it was "brought back" after it almost went into extinction since people had stopped making it for awhile.  She focuses on bringing foods back from extinction and one of her sayings is "Eat it to save it".  So true - foods go extinct if no one's eating them so if you want to "save" your favorite foods, keep eating them.
The Creole cream cheese "custard" before going into the freezer

Frozen Creole Cream Cheese
2 pints Creole Cream Cheese
1/2 pint heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla

Mix all ingredients together until smooth in food processor or by pressing through a sieve.  Freeze in ice cream freezer or in stainless steel bowl in freezer, stirring occasionally until mixture reaches soft serve consistency.

Note: Does not keep well in the freezer so eat it all :).  Or, before re-serving, allow to thaw slightly and mix to restore soft serve consistency.

We'd had such good food for lunch that I feel almost guilty admitting cream cheese still isn't my thing, Creole or otherwise.  The bite or the tang still doesn't go well with my sweet tooth.  However, the calas that were served with them?  To die for.
The Calas mixture
Poppy shaping the calas with two spoons before dropping into the hot oil
This was another food on the verge of extinction before she revived it and I'm so glad she did.  Calas are deep-fried rice cakes, reminiscent of zeppoles to me and just as good.  It also looked really easy to make so I'm making these next time I have people over so I don't down the whole batch by myself.  The outside is crunchy and the inside is fluffy and cake-like, not what you might expect with something made with cooked rice.  The culinary history accompanying the calas-making was the street vendors sold these in the French Quarter.  Many of them were slaves and by Louisiana law, they had Sundays off.  On those Sundays, enterprising slaves who had brought calas and rice growing knowledge with them from Africa, sold calas outside the churches.  At that time, New Orleans was predominantly Catholic and it was the Catholic tradition to fast before mass so by the time they emerged from church, they were hungry.  I imagine the calas sold very well.  Many slaves bought their freedom by saving up their proceeds from selling calas and other delicacies.
Frozen Creole Cream Cheese with Calas
A close up of the inside of a calas
Traditional Sweet Calas, recipe from New Orleans Cooking School

2 cups cooked rice
6 tablespoons flour
3 heaping tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
powdered sugar for dusting

Mix the rice and dry ingredients together thoroughly.  Add the eggs and when thoroughly mixed, drop by spoonfuls into hot deep fat (oil), at 360 degrees.  Fry until brown.  Drain on paper towels.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve hot.

Note: Keep rice mixture cool (below 70 degrees) or it might not hold together when frying.

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