Raise your hand if you have ever been on a date to C&O.
So, you too share the fellowship of the knot? That’s what I thought.
Like Dittie Reese and Saks, C&O is an institution to Los Angeles area college students and those who wish they still were. I suppose the food is okay. Pasta and lots of it. However, that isn’t what draws the crowds to this rowdy, no reservation restaurant just steps from the Venice Pier. Nope. It’s the free flowing Chianti, hourly house-wide renditions of That’s Amore and most importantly, it’s the garlic knots.
When eating at the C&O, the strategy is simple. First: try to finish-off the giant carafe of house chianti they set on the table at the beginning of the meal (I swear that thing must be at least 1500 ml) . Second: always make sure the garlic knot plate on your table is completely empty every time one of the waitstaff comes by with the huge platter of steamy, garlicy, crunchy, soft little dough balls so that they pile on a maximum refill.
Some say they are sent from heaven. Some say from hell. Either way, these little nuggets of goodness are indescribably good. And you know what? I figured out how to make them.
I’ve been trolling for a recipe for garlic knots for some time. And like Goldilocks and the three bears, nothing I found seemed quite right. So, I set aside the porridge, put on an apron and came up with my own recipe. I then vetted my little creation with some self-described C&O garlic knot fanatics (hi Erin and Randy) during the Superbowl and voila! We had a winner.
I started with a basic pizza dough recipe. My current favorite comes from the Joy of Cooking. I’m also pretty confident you could use some ready-made store-bought dough as well. The one trick I use is to make the dough and then retard the fermentation by letting it sit in the fridge over night. Then, I pull the dough out of cold storage, oil it up and let it rest in a towel-covered bowl for at least a couple of hours.
This recipe makes about five dozen garlic knots. However, if the temptation of 60 knots is a little too much, half the dough right after it has come together, seal one of the balls in a zip-lock bag and then freeze it for future use. The size of your garlic balls is highly personal and completely up to you. I like them to be about two bites. For this size, half your dough, and then continue to half the resulting pieces evenly until you get 32 little nuggets.
Working with the dough one piece one-at-a-time, roll the ball into a snake of about four-inches.
Then, wrap the snake around your fingers like this.
And poke one of the ends around the back and up through the middle. This whole action happens quickly and is very easy to do after the third of fourth try.
Most of the time the result will be a cute little knot. But remember, the dough is sticky so, if the result is more of a blob, don’t worry about it.
The knots go into a nice hot oven for 12-15 minutes or until they begin to turn golden. If you’d like to heighten the effect, brush them with an egg wash before cooking them.
While the knots are in the oven, it’s time to get busy with the garlic sauce. The recipe I’ve listed below should be considered more of a general guideline. Exact quantities aren’t all that important here. Begin by gently melting a wodge of butter with some olive oil.
Next comes the garlic. Again, it’s a matter of taste on how many cloves. I use four or five and consider myself to have a fairly moderate garlic tolerance. How you dispense the garlic is also a matter of taste. I like to use a microplane and sort of melt the garlic. You could also mince it or use a garlic press. Completely up to you.
Once melted, minced or pressed, the garlic goes into the butter-oil bath.
While the fats and garlic are warming up to one another, chop up some flat leaf parsley.
Add the parsley to the garlic mixture and some salt to taste. The salt is important to this recipe because it serves as an abrasive to create more surface area for the sauce to stick to.
Okay, maybe that last part was total B.S.. The salt is still important though.
Once the knots come out of the oven, toss the still hot rolls with the sauce. You’ll have several batches of knots if making the whole recipe. All you need to do is divide up your sauce into the number of pans of rolls and then add a little each time a batch comes out of the oven. How you keep your balls warm in the interim is totally up to you (actually, they’ll be just fine sitting in the bowl).
It’s as easy as that folks! This is a great party food because the crispiness of the balls will stand up to the sauce even after they’ve cooled (and they re-heat very well which shouldn’t be an issue because there won’t be any to re-heat).
Still not feeling the complete C&O experience? Let me sweeten the deal a bit: Dean Martin. Cin-Cin!
dough recipe adapted from The Joy of Cooking
Note: I usually make the entire recipe, divide it in half, freeze half and use the remaining for the knots. You’ll get about 30 knots from half the recipe.
- 1 1 /3 C warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
- 1 package (.25 oz) active dry yeast
- 3 1/2 to 4 C all-purpose flour
- 2 TBs olive oil
- 1 TBs salt
- 1 TBS sugar
(remember, these are approximate, experiment to desired taste)
- 4 TBS butter
- 1/4 C olive oil
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1/4 C chopped parsley (I like Italian flat-leaf)
- salt to taste (I like to use kosher salt)
In the bowl of a standing mixer (or large bowl if you are going to do this by hand), add warm water and yeast. Let mixture stand about 5 minutes until the yeast is dissolved and the liquid is frothy. Using a paddle attachment, mix in the first 3 1/2 C of flour, olive oil, salt and sugar until combined. Switch to the dough hook and knead for about 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic, adding extra flour as needed.
If using entire batch of dough, seal in a zip-lock bag and let sit in the fridge over night (otherwise, divide dough into two bags stashing one in the freezer and the other in the fridge).
When ready to make knots, remove dough from the fridge, fold it into a ball and place in an oiled bowl, turning so that the entire ball of dough is coated. Cover bowl with a towel and let dough rise in a warm spot for two or three hours.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees with rack in the center.
Once dough has doubled in size, punch down and turn-it-out onto a floured cutting board or surface. Using a sharp knife, divide dough into desired number of dough nuggets. Working one by one, roll the ball into a snake and quickly tie the snake into a knot. Place finished knots on parchment lined-baking sheets and bake for 12-15 minutes.
To make sauce, combine butter and oil in a saucepan and warm over low heat. Mince, chop or grate garlic into the butter and oil mixture. Add in parsley and salt to taste.
When knots come out of an oven, immediately dump into a large bowl. Add sauce and toss until balls are evenly coated. Repeat process until all balls are baked.