Recipe: Crab & Shrimp Calas

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Cover image for Crabs and OystersEvery Tuesday this summer we’re featuring a new recipe on the blog from one of our Savor the South® cookbooks. Each little cookbook in our Savor the South® cookbook collection is a big celebration of a beloved food or tradition of the American South. From buttermilk to bourbon, pecans to peaches, bacon to catfish, one by one each volume will stock a kitchen shelf with the flavors and culinary wisdom of this popular American regional cuisine. Written by well-known cooks and food lovers, each book brims with personality, the informative and often surprising culinary and natural history of southern foodways, and a treasure of some fifty recipes—from delicious southern classics to sparkling international renditions that open up worlds of taste for cooks everywhere. You’ll want to collect them all.

Today’s recipe is from Bill Smith’s Crabs and Oysters. Bill Smith is the chef at Crook’s Corner Restaurant in Chapel Hill, N.C., and author of Seasoned in the South: Recipes and Stories from Crook’s Corner and Home, a New York Times notable cookbook and Food & Wine Best-of-the-Best cookbook. You can follow him on Twitter @Chulegre. Whether you made it to the beach this summer or not, you can still enjoy this tasty seafood dish!

Don’t forget to “like” the Savor the South® book page on Facebook for more news and recipes. Also, check back here next Tuesday for another Savor the South® Sampler recipe!

Recipe: Crab & Shrimp Calas

I first had calas (rice fritters) in New Orleans the summer before Katrina. My friend Poppy Tooker, a Louisiana food writer and radio host, served them at a meeting of the Southern Foodways Alliance. Calas are a traditional street food but they had begun to disappear. It is Poppy’s mission to save them from passing out of memory and being lost. On this morning, she served a sweet dessert variety.

Jump forward eight years. Another friend, Lolis Elie, was promoting a cookbook (Treme: Stories and Recipes from the Heart of New Orleans) based on his TV series Treme. At the party we threw when he came to Chapel Hill, I wanted to serve at least one thing from that book. He and Poppy had by then come up with a savory version of calas, and this is based on their recipe. They used crayfish. I used crabmeat and shrimp for the party. They are so easy and so good that they are on my menu all the time now. I have been enlisted to Poppy’s cause.

Make the sauce first since the sour cream will need a while to recover its consistency. Grating martini olives is tedious, but for this delicious sauce it is worth it. My admiration for grated onion grows daily.
Servings: 3 dozen


  • 1/2 small onion grated
  • 1/2 small unpeeled cucumber grated
  • 6 martini olives grated
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 4 cups cooked rice
  • 12 scallions both green and white parts, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 tsps. baking powder
  • 4 eggs well beaten
  • 1 cup fresh crabmeat (grade of your choice) picked over for shell
  • 1 cup boiled shrimp well salted, cooled, and roughly chopped
  • cooking oil for frying


  • To make the sauce, put the onions, cucumber, and olives into a sieve, sprinkle with a little salt, and drain for about 10 minutes. In a small bowl, combine the sour cream with the vegetables and season with salt and pepper. Set the bowl in a bowl of ice and chill in the refrigerator for half an hour so that the sour cream can set up again. (Make a sandwich from the unused cucumber half, since it won’t keep.)
  • To make the calas, put the rice in a large mixing bowl. Purée the scallions in a food processor until almost liquid and fold into the rice. Combine the flour, salt, and baking powder and stir into the rice. Fold in the eggs, followed by the seafood. Let the batter rest in the refrigerator for half an hour.
  • Using a small ice-cream-style scoop, form the batter into 1-inch balls. Fill a straight-sided saucepan with enough oil to float the calas and heat it to about 360°. (If you don’t have a thermometer, you can test the temperature with fair accuracy by dropping a few specks of the batter into it. If the oil is ready, the batter will sizzle, float, and brown quickly.) Place as many calas into the oil as you can without crowding them. As they cook, they will float and brown. Usually they will turn themselves over as they cook; if not, do this with tongs. Fry for 4–5 minutes. Break one open to make sure they are done through. Serve hot with the sauce.


From Crabs & Oysters: a Savor the South® cookbook by Bill Smith. Copyright © 2015 by the University of North Carolina Press.