Thursday, April 28, 2011
Have you ever waited to try something for let's say 12 or 13 years? Then, you finally do it with the right people, the right equipment, and in this case, the right ingredients and it turns out splendidly?
Well, this past Sunday was not only the triumph of life over death (thanks, Jesus) but it was also the end of a long wait. And a successful end at that.
Years ago, Steve, Ben and I had brought up the idea of making timpano, an all in one Italian pasta dish made famous by appearing in one of my favorite movies Big Night.
When we were first married, Ben and I together with a few friends orchestrated a progressive dinner Big Night style. We feasted on Italian food and wine at each other's homes and ended the evening by watching the movie.
On our to-do list someday was to try out this new dish.
It requires a recipe, which we didn't have, and a 14 inch diameter enamel bowl, which we didn't have.
Now, thanks to Steve's generosity at our most recent anniversary, we own both. This book is a collection of recipes and stories of the Tucci family. Stanley Tucci, actor and director, made the film Big Night. He collaborated with his parents and another Italian chef to publish the recipes used in the movie including the one for Timpano.
So, here we were with the book, the bowl and an Easter just around the corner...a perfect storm, as Ben might say, to try this out.
We prepared both the sauce and the meatballs the day before Easter and our planned dinner.
We cut, assembled and sort of measured the rest of the filling ingredients the day of.
We followed the recipe for the dough that lines the bowl and encases the filling. We rolled it out using the formula given in the book. As you can see, our kitchen island is too small to hold the required 28 inch diameter circle of dough.
Well, I've never been one to let a simple furniture problem get in my way...so we continued.
We greased up the bowl with 2 tablespoons of real butter and then one tablespoon of olive oil.
We pressed the dough ever so carefully into the bowl. First we needed to fold the circle in half, then in a triangle shape to make it easier to lift into the bowl.
The dough is paper thin and we were careful not to tear it.
Here I am pointing to the middle of the bowl attempting to be an important guide for this dough.
We draped it over the sides and then went to work layering the filling ingredients according to the book's instructions.
Triumphant Moment #1: The dough turned out perfectly...and rested in its place virtually intact.
The recipe calls for ziti pasta, but even the local Italian deli Buon Giorno did not have it, so we used 3 lbs of this instead. Close enough.
We also cut up a dozen hard boiled eggs; you can imagine how many we had given the season.
We made meatballs, as I mentioned before, although we probably made them too large. The recipe calls for 1/2 inch meatballs. But hey, they were made from scratch, with beef from our own bought cow. So there.
We grated Pecorrino Romano cheese and cut up sharp Provolone, both from the aforementioned deli.
We also cut up Genoa Salami which I purchased from Lund's.
We then tossed the pasta (cooked 1/2 the time called for on the package) with 2 cups of the homemade sauce.
With the ingredients prepared, we let the assembly begin.
Oh, our work was not completed without a little, ahem, "help".
Have you ever tried Dry Fly vodka martinis? They are to die for.
Back to the timpano...
We were completing the last layer and I read that the filling should be one inch below the rim of the bowl.
Well, we had a problem.
Luckily I had read from a blog the evening before (and we would have figured it out anyway) that you may need to compact the filling by pressing it down.
Steve used his hands.
In my kitchen, that's perfectly acceptable. I was dying to get in on the action too.
Triumphant Moment #2: All the ingredients fit.
We then wrapped the dough over the top, closing up this amazing creation.
We trimmed away the excess dough and placed our first ever timpano in the oven at 350 degrees uncovered for one hour.
We had a little help while we waited.
Our friends the Willsons came over and we talked and talked and watch the timpano and talked and watched the timpano.
The dog waited too...neither talking, nor watching.
Then, we covered the timpano with tin foil, and let it cook for another 30 minutes.
We removed it from the oven and let it just sit in our presence for 30 minutes more.
It was a thing of beauty.
With bated breath, a few prayers, and more anticipation than I can usually stand, we flipped the bowl and released the timpano.
Triumphant Moment #3: The timpano remained intact, gorgeous and may I say, looking just like the picture on the cover of the book, and from what I can remember, the movie as well.
I have never cooked something that turned out just like the picture.
This was truly a new day in the making.
"It looks like a brain," Dr. Willson said.
I guess I can forgive him. He reads brain scans for a living.
Now, it was waiting time again.
The recipe calls for 20 minutes of anticipation before cutting into this creation.
I think we allowed for another 45 minutes...more time for all the flavors to mix and mingle and do their wonderful Italian thing.
Meanwhile, we inspected and listened carefully...for what I have no idea, it just felt good to get close to this thing. Okay, that may be the Dry Fly talking at this point.
And then it was the moment of truth.
Carefully and with a freshly sharpened knife, Steve cut a circle in the top of the timpano. This is supposed to allow for each piece to come out more intact, not falling all over the place.
Our cut was maybe slightly too small, less than the recommended 3 inch diameters.
We didn't care. We were hungry, excited, hungry, nervous, and hungry.
Triumphant Moment #4: Timpano piece looks, smells, and tastes fabulous.
I mean, how could you not want to savor this?
My plate as it looked before I savored. Or maybe after I had a bite or two. My salad plate had been adiosed by Ben and I was ready for the main course. It was really all that was needed on my plate, a meal in and of itself.
Triumphant Moment #5: Realizing we had over half the timpano left for the next night's dinner.
And more friends to share it with.
Next year, I'll provide the ingredients, you provide the "help" and we'll do this together.