Long have we dreamed about the Big Night Timpano. Since watching that movie, we've talked and talked about that big meal on that big night, that fabulous and mysterious timpano, all of those wonderful Italian dishes, capped off by our favorite scene at the end of the movie with the so simple yet perfectly exquisite omelette. A couple of months ago, our neighborhood restaurant, Café Lago, held a special anniversary dinner featuring the "Big Night Timpano" prepared by Salumi founder Armandino Batali. We made sure we were there. It was everything we'd hoped it would be and it renewed my desire to try my hand at making this beautiful and delicious treasure.
What's just as gratifying as actually making any special dish are the discussions and thoughts about it before and after. When talking about recipes for this dish, of course my friend Karen, who is much more knowledgeable than me about food, chefs, restaurants, cookbooks, baking, etc. (the list is long), came through with the actual Big Night recipe from Stanley Tucci. She pulled it right out of her collection of cookbooks and copied it for me, and for that, you must come to dinner.
For you, the recipe can be found here: http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/12799-timpano-alla-big-night
The NY Times recipe calls for 4 cups of the salami, provolone and meatballs, whereas the book copy only calls for 2 cups, and 6 eggs beaten to pour over the pasta instead of 4 eggs.
I followed the book recipe with the exception of using a few less hard-boiled eggs and about 2 cups of additional ragú in the pasta. One confession is that I cheated by purchasing the meatballs from Salumi instead of making them myself. When one has access like that, advantage must be taken.
The dough for the 'shell' of the timpano is very much like a pasta sheet.
To make it large enough to encase the ingredients, I rolled it out to a 29" diameter. The math involved is the top diameter of the bowl 14" + the bottom diameter of the bowl 10" + the height of the bowl 4 ½"
The advice given on the recipe is to use a light weight enamelware bowl. I bought mine on Amazon. What I was most nervous about was if the timpano would release from the bowl and turn out. I buttered and olive oiled generously.
To break up the work involved on the day of the dinner, I made the ragú, boiled the eggs, cut the salami and provolone and grated the pecornio Romano the day before. Bring everything to room temperature before assembling the timpano.
Not knowing for sure if the timpano would release from the bowl, Chris did a quick twist and violent shimmy of the bowl to reveal that it was indeed loose. It took two people to flip the bowl onto a serving platter. I think the timpano weighed at least 13 pounds. Pulling the bowl off was like pulling the curtain away on a magic trick.
There was plenty of timpano for all and leftovers for meals to come. I served the timpano with my basic tomato sauce and grated pecorino Romano and parmesan on the side. As delicious as the timpano was, I would say it is more visually stunning than anything. After all the cooking I've done over the years, I can say one thing for sure, the cook never finds the meal as delicious having smelled, tasted and touched the food so much before eating it. Therefore, I look forward to my leftovers for a second taste. Notes for next time is more sauce and more cheese inside keeping in mind too much sauce and the shell will get soggy and not stand up. Too much cheese, is there such a thing?
We loved our big night for the food, yes, but mostly for the company! Will definitely repeat!