I first heard of Christopher Hitchens when he died. Then I spent the better part of a saturday afternoon watching, listening and reading his lectures and interviews and articles.
Coincidentally with this time of year, Hitchens wrote a fascinating piece on Hanukkah in 2007, offering his alternative interpretation to the supposed victory of light over darkness and, reasonably and rather convincingly, claiming it a the victory of faith over knowledge and free thought and in so, the victory is of darkness over light.
As a firm believer in alternatives myself, I’ve attached a link to the piece here. Its an interesting read if you have a few minutes to spare, are open minded, inquisitive, value free thinking and the importance of asking questions about the world around us even if you think we hold all the answers already. It does not, however, offer a reading as to why we eat fried dough this time of year, every year.
In the spirit of offering alternatives at this particular sizzling season I made traditional Calas, a New Orleans breakfast specialty that is golden brown rice fritters just this side of sweet. Best served warm and freshly fried, the steaming fritters release a festive aroma complimented with a bite- an alternative option to the traditional latkes and doughnuts (and apparently works great with rice leftover from dinner).
Happy holidays, one way or the other.
Lightly adapted from Marion Cunnungham’s ‘The breakfast book’
Approx. 15 calas
¾ cup water
¼ cup long grain rice like Basmati, Perisan and Jasmine.
½ tsp salt
¼ cup lukewarm water
10g fresh yeast (or 3g active dry yeast)
1 large fresh egg
2½ Tbs sugar
½ tsp lemon zest
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
¾ cup all purpose flour
oil, for frying
Serve with: confectioner’s sugar
- A day earlier: In a medium saucepan boil¾ cup water. Add the rice and salt, reduce to a low flame, cover and cook for 25 minutes (longer then you would do making rice. The rice should melt to a lumpy paste). Strain any remaining water and use a fork to mash the rice.
- In a small bowl, pour the¼ cup lukewarm water and add the yeast. Stir well and set aside for 5 minutes, until the yeast has fully dissolved in the water.
- Add the yeast mixture to the mashed rice, cover with plastic wrap and set aside overnight.
- The next day: in a bowl, beat the egg. Add the sugar, lemon zest, grated nutmeg and ½ cup flour and beat until combined.
- Add the yeasted rice to the mixture and mix well for 2 minutes.
- Add the remaining 1q4 cup flour and mix well. Taste and add salt, if needed. Cover and let proof at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- In a large sauté pan pour oil to about 3-4 cm deep. once hot (but not smoking!) carefully drop batter in heaping tablespoons into the oil, 2-3 at a time. Fry the Calas until golden, about 1 minute for each side. Make sure the oil isn’t too hot as the calas would overfry on the outside and remain raw inside.
- Using a slotted spoon, remove the Calas from the hot oil to a paper towel.
- Serve warm, sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar.