Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Garlic Knots

My favorite memory I have of eating garlic knots was way back when I was in grammar school. I was sitting in Sunday school and it was time for offering. If you're not a church goer, basically, offering is when a collection basket is passed around and the congregants put money in it and it goes to the church. Anyway, my friend, E, whispered to me, "Hey, don't put your offering in the basket." I asked, "Why?" She responded, "Let's go to the pizza place after service and get garlic knots." Just two weeks earlier, I had learned what garlic knots were. Some of the older kids in youth group had bought a big bag of them and were passing them around. One of the pre-teens was feeling kind of generous so he offered some of us younger kids a taste. The one bite of knot that I shared with E was delicious. So, I withheld my crisp $1 bill that my parents had given me earlier that morning and passed the offering basket along to the next kid.

I'm not going to lie and say that I felt terribly guilty. I was six or seven and honestly, the idea of eating non-Korean food was really exciting to me. Our church would serve snacks after service but it was always rice cakes (sticky Korean rice cakes, a.k.a. dduk; not Quaker ones). I was ready for a change. So, after Sunday School was dismissed, a group of second grade girls (including myself), ran across the street (after checking both ways, of course) into the pizza shop, clutching our meant-for-offering dollar bills. We each ordered a baggie of garlic knots, which conveniently cost $1 each, and shoveled them into our greedy and hungry mouths. They were greasy and covered in bits of garlic and green stuff (which I later learned was parsley) and they were so delicious. They were especially delicious because they were hot out of the oven, unlike the shared knot we'd enjoyed a few weeks earlier.

God doesn't hold grudges (he's known for being v. forgiving) so I think we can both look back on that story and laugh. Can't say the same for my parents though. I shared that story with them when I was graduating high school - just as a 'hey, now I'm old enough that we can be friends so I want to share all the hilarious antics I got into as a kid that you don't know about' kind of anecdote. I thought they'd laugh but I think they were worried that little incident had bought me a ticket straight to hell. I thought that was harsh.

Anyway, now that I'm older, I don't have to be all sneaky and hoard my allowance to buy garlic knots. I just go to my favorite pizzeria (there are so many good ones in my neck of the woods; hello New York Metropolitan area) and buy them with my own hard-earned cash. Or, I pop into the market, pick up a few ingredients, and I make them myself. Either experience is satisfying.
Ingredients [makes 12 knots]:
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
+ parmesan cheese
+ tomato sauce (for dipping)
Start by making a batch of quick pizza dough. This stuff doesn't need to rise so it's perfect for last-minute knot cravings, which is a common occurrence in my life.
Knead the dough until it's lovely and smooth and elastic and then let it sit for a bit so the gluten can calm down.
Lightly flour the working surface and the dough and then press into a circle just using your hands.
Cut the dough into twelve triangles. I used my trusty bench scraper to first cut the dough in half, then into quarters and then split each quarter into thirds.
Grab a triangle and roll it into a log and then tie it into a knot.
My sister asked me why they're made into knots and why not just regular rolls? Well, I don't know if the knot shape serves a purpose really. I know that knots were developed by pizzerias just trying to use up their scrap dough. However, if I wanted to give a real reason? I think that they're fun to pull apart and I think the little crevices created by the knot shape are perfect for pools of greasy garlic sauce to nestle into.
To make the garlicky butter, just chop up a bunch of garlic and add it to a pan with butter and salt. The salt isn't necessary if your butter is already salted (duh).
Heat the butter and garlic on low heat until the garlic starts to sizzle.
Sprinkle a bunch of parsley into the butter and then brush it onto the knots. Be generous and be messy; you want lots of buttery goodness on each knot. Make sure to get bits of garlic and parsley loaded onto the brush also.
Bake these beauties in a 375F oven for 10 to 12 minutes, until they're puffed up and golden brown.
How cute and delicious do these babies look?
To make them even better (and give them the same greasy effect I loved as a child), spoon any leftover butter onto each knot.
Serve warm and enjoy the fluffy bread, the fragrant garlic, the drippy butter; garlic knots are my love language. Also, at this stage, if you wanted to go a more traditional route, you can sprinkle the knots with parmesan cheese and serve up a little tomato sauce for dipping.
However, I made my knots to accompany some steamed clams in white wine. So, I left out the cheese and sauce. Cheese and seafood really don't mix (except for lobster mac & cheese).
What a pretty meal, huh? Loads of bread and a pile of clams is another one of my love languages.
Here are the recipe pages for the quick pizza dough and the knots:

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