You know sometimes when you see something and you're like, WHOA, why didn't I think of that before?!? That happened when I saw this photo of the "pizza knots" at NYC sandwich shop Parm. These suckers are DEEP-FRIED. Like a mashup between garlic knots and that other old-school pizzeria staple, zeppole.
Traditional garlic knots are found in almost any NYC by-the-slice pizza joint, and they're always baked (like these I made in the photo above). They're usually six for a buck or thereabout and are simply made from the same dough the pizza comes from, in the same oven the pizza is baked in. I had never seen a deep-fried garlic knot before I saw that Parm photo.
Honestly, I don't like garlic knots that much. They're usually stale from sitting around too long—tough and chewy and dry. There are a few places in NYC that do them well, like at Best Pizza in Brooklyn. There they rise for a long time before the bake, giving them soft innards and a just-crisp-enough shell. In addition, the guys at Best Pizza grate a little bit of Parmesan cheese on the knots along with some freshly torn basil. That's classy knots, y'all.
But, like I said, I was wowed by the deep-fried knots, so I figured I'd go for broke.
The first thing I wanted to do was establish the best knot size. So I used a portion of dough from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt's NYC pizza dough recipe. I divided them into various sizes ranging from 1 ounce to 2 ounces in quarter-ounce increments. I found that 1.25 ounces was ideal. Not too small, not too large. Remember, these are going to puff up dramatically once they hit the oil, and you want them to be snacks rather than a meal unto themselves.
Before I deep-fried and/or baked my knots, I let them rise a good long time (4 hours, while I wrote out some Christmas cards), smothered with a mixture of minced garlic and olive oil.
I heated 4 quarts or so of vegetable oil to 400°F and used a perforated spoon thing to dunk my knots in the oil. The knot might stick to the spoon at first but eventually releases and floats to the top, a riot of bubbles emanating from its expanding form.
For 1.25-ounce knots, I cooked them for 4 minutes total, turning them halfway through.
The one thing I noticed was that with fried knots—unlike baked—the minced garlic has a tendency to blacken and flake off as the knot cooks. Maybe that's why the guys at Parm call theirs pizza knots?
Anyway, to get around this problem, what I ended up doing was brushing off the minced garlic bits before frying. I then roasted some garlic in the oven and mashed it, spreading a bit of that on the knots post fry.
Of course, you're going to want to grate some good Parmesan on there and sprinkle on the chopped fresh herb of your choice. I went with parsley this time. The knots get a decent hole structure and cook through pretty evenly, not really soaking up much grease. The exterior is crisp and chewy and a little bit moist from the oil. And of course, fresh out of the fryer, they're awesome.
I'm gonna give it to you straight, though: don't wait too long to eat them. Like any fried food they go from hero to zero in no time flat. If you've got a dedicated deep-fryer, these might be nice to add to your pizza party repertoire. If not, maybe fun for a special occasion. For all other occasions, I'd stick with baked knots—or, really, I'd just used the knot dough to make another pizza.