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