Sunday, December 6, 2015

Big Night Timpano!

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:
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!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Fig Jam with Calvados, Orange and Balsamic

It's that time of year again.  My turkish brown fig tree is beginning to produce some fine ripe fruit.  I am trying a slightly different recipe this year and can't wait to taste it with some burrata cheese, prosciutto and crostini maybe?  

2 ½ cups puréed fresh figs
1 tsp orange zest
2 tbsp orange juice
2 ¼ tbsp Ball Real Fruit Classic Pectin
¼ cup Calvados
2 cups turbinado sugar
2 tbsp good quality balsamic vinegar

Prepare four 8 oz canning jars.  Follow the directions of manufacturer of the jars you are using.
Cut the stems off the figs and cut them in half.  Purée the figs in a food processor.
In a large sauce pan, combine the figs, orange zest and orange juice.  Bring to a boil.
Add the pectin and bring to a full rolling boil over high heat, stirring constantly.  
Add the calvados and all of the sugar, stirring to dissolve.  
Return the fruit to a full boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  
Add the balsamic vinegar and stir to incorporate.
Ladle the fruit into prepared jars.
If using immediately, let cool and refrigerate jam.
If preserving, place filled jars into a canner or large pot of boiling water.  The jars should be covered by at least 1 inch of water.  Boil for 10 minutes.
Remove jars from water and cool.  

Happy fall!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Hong Kong TOAL

After spending our first three nights in Hong Kong, we were boarding our friends’ catamaran Monday afternoon for a five night cruise around Hong Kong and the surrounding waters.  Hours of route planning and provisioning had taken place prior to our arrival and we were the beneficiaries of that work by our friends who live in Hong Kong and own the boat.  A last minute change was made to move the boat trip out a few days due to a spot of rainy weather.  As it turned out, we had five glorious days on the boat and were told by all friends we encountered that we had the best weather Hong Kong ever sees:  warm, sunny, cool breezes, and low humidity.  It was marvelous.

During our first three days in Hong Kong, we shopped and ate in Kowloon, Stanley Market and Central. We had a BBQ on our friends’ rooftop patio and climbed to the top of The Peak.  I should not move forward with the boating portion of our trip without sharing some photos of our time in Hong Kong. 

 Our first day, Saturday, we made a trip to Kowloon side via the Star Ferry.  It was a rainy day and the crowded streets made a good first taste of Hong Kong.

Wet Market, Saturday dinner, our first night, at Tung Po Seafood Restaurant 
Noisy, crowded, disco music and beer served in soup bowls, excellent!

 Favorite dish at Tung Po - spicy, salty fish which we ate on toasted bread

Sunday, we went to Stanley Market for trinket shopping and a dim sum lunch at Chung's Cuisine, Stanley Market

 Roast Goose

 Creamy Custard-Filled Buns

 Pork and Vegetable E-Fu Noodles

 Pork Dumplings

Ginger Chicken Feet

Sunday night, we grilled burgers on our friends' rooftop deck.

Yes, that is real grass on a rooftop in Hong Kong!

View from the roof

We decided a little exercise was called for before we lazed ourselves on the catamaran for the next several days.  Monday morning, we climbed to the top of the Peak on a route requiring some scrambling. It was a steep but rewarding route.

Views from The Peak

 Monday lunch before boarding the boat was at King's Taste in Central.  We had two dining goals on our list - dim sum and Peking duck, and Eriko came through on both choices. We parked at the IFC containing a labyrinth of shops and walkways and the beautiful Four Seasons Hotel.  Wish we had a little more time there.
After lunch, the girls and I did a little shopping while Chris and Tim loaded our bags into his van to head to Sai Kung for the start of our boat trip.

Steamed xiao long bao

 Flaky, delicately crispy turnip cakes

 Scallion cakes

 Peking Duck - truly so delicious, like nothing we've had in Seattle

 Peking Duck sliced off the bone, served with scallions, cucumber, melon and pineapple with  paper thin wraps.

Monday, April 13 – The Start of a Five Day Catamaran Trip

The car was packed, and we were picked up from our little shopping expedition for a quick trip to the grocery store in Sai Kung before we settled aboard.  Night one was spent at the dock after unpacking our bags and stowing our supplies in Hong Kong Marina in Sai Kung.  At sunset we sat at the bow of the boat, enjoying our drinks, watching the sun drop behind the hills and thinking about how lucky we were.

A quick taxi ride into Sai Kung town brought us to a bevy of dinner options.  Of course the first place we came upon made us marvel at their live seafood tanks.  It was an amazing assortment of seafood, and after a couple minutes of convincing by the restaurant’s manager, we found ourselves at a table at the Hung Kee Restaurant.  We may have foolishly chosen the first restaurant we came upon, but in that moment, it was all perfect.  It was much more about the experience and the food was not bad either.

 The restaurant's live fish tanks

 Salt and Pepper Squid

 Steamed Shrimp

 Lobster in a creamy sauce with noodles

Steamed live scallops in their shell with glass noodles, garlic and scallions

 Steamed fish with soy, ginger, scallions and cilantro

Wok fried fresh crab with garlic, ginger and scallions

After dinner, we walked a bit to a dessert place, Honeymoon Desserts.  We sat, over full, happily tired, but still found room for some ice cream and mango with sticky rice.  After another short taxi ride home, we were safely back aboard the boat and tucked away for the night.

Tuesday, April 14

I awoke early after a good night’s sleep.  Excellent drip coffee was made using an ingenious single drip coffee pouches that rest on the edge of your coffee cup. Why don't we have these in the U.S.?  Great for trips like these.

Final preparations were done, bags of ice for the cooler (Special note: Tim purchased a new cooler called a Yeti and instructions suggested making a slurry of ice and salt.  Strange, I know, but this process, coupled with the excellent engineering that has gone into this high end cooler made for some amazingly cold beer.  In fact some of the light beers actually froze solid, another reason to avoid light beer!) were purchased, captain’s muffins consisting of English muffins and peanut butter were had, and we were on our way.  We motored north through Mirs Bay to Tai Long Wan, a serene beach where we took the tender in for lunch.  

 Beach at Tai Long Wan -  beautiful, soft, fine sand 

 Black Bean Beef Rice

Fried Singapore Noodles

Lunch was simple rice and noodles but delicious and the setting serene and beautiful.  After lunch, we motored around to Long Harbour to set anchor for the night and hike to Sharp Peak Sai Kung.  Ignoring a sign stating “very treacherous” climb, we moved onward to earn our drinks and carbonara pasta dinner we would have on board the boat that evening.  The descent was more treacherous than the upward climb because of the loose rock and the steepness, but we all made it safely down.

 Looking down the mountain on the rocky trail

One poor photo of our carbonara dinner was taken.  Something about being on a lovely boat, in a lovely evening, that makes you forget all about having to take food photos.  No lack of sunset photos though.

Wednesday, April 15

We woke to glassy waters and a fair layer of dew.  After coffee and breakfast, a little tidying up, we were on our way.  

We made our way to Ping Chau where we had a  lunch of hot dogs and spicy sausages.  Several high speed passes were made by the police patrolling the area as it had been a popular smuggling route between China and Hong Kong being that China was just across the water in close view.  Not too long ago, they used to use high speed boats to move stolen Mercedes from Hong Kong to be sold in China.  After lunch, we sailed our way back through Mirs Bay and through Double Haven to Sam A Tsuen, where we planned to anchor for the night.  

Once anchored, we took the tender onto shore and walked 1.75km to the deserted town of Lai Chi Wo.  Once there, we realized though most buildings had been deserted, there were still a few occupants and dogs in town.

Look at the size of the wok!  We noticed all the houses had large wood fire places for extra large woks.

Upon our return to the boat, it was time for a quick swim, showers, and a high speed run on the tender before settling down for dinner.  Dinner was grilled kalbi short ribs, rice, macaroni salad and cabbage slaw. Again, food photos took a back seat to enjoying our setting.

Thursday, April 16

An early start was made for the long ride south to Middle Island, just off Hong Kong Island, where we planned to have dinner at the yacht club.  Along the way, we made a quick stop at a beach for a swim and possible boogie boarding followed by grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch. 

We pulled up to the dock at Middle Island about 3:30pm, had our showers and evening cocktails and snacks before heading up to the yacht club for dinner.  We were told we have hit some of the best weather ever seen in Hong Kong.  Another fabulous day in the books and a gorgeous evening to top it off.

Yes, there was a sunset every night, and yes, I may be sharing them all with you.

Friday, April 17

This was our last night on the boat before getting on our flight back home Saturday night.  We made our way to Causeway Bay, just a short jaunt from Middle Island.  We planned to head into Wan Chai, just a short taxi ride away, and go to The Wanch to watch our friend’s band, Bus Uncle, perform.  Wan Chai turns out to be somewhat of a spot in which most 15 and 17 year olds should not be hanging out.  Therefore, after a nice Thai food dinner, and catching half of our friend's band play, we taxied back to the boat.   

The ride through the harbor and into Causeway Bay was quite rocky at times.  Lots of boat traffic and tight quarters produced a lot of confused waves.  We arrived in Causeway Bay and went into the Hong Kong Yacht Club for the pool and some lunch.  Sadly, upon return, we had to vacate the dock as they were needing it for the dozens of boats they were loading into the water for a small craft race.  Discussions were had and the decision was made to head back to Sai Kung.  This worked out as a blessing in disguise.  There was a lot of construction taking place at the Bay and would have been a noisy night and morning.  We also had to make our way back to Sai Kung on Saturday regardless to return the boat to dock and leave for the airport.  The only downside was a longer taxi ride from Sai Kung to Wan Chai that night.  Not much of a downside at all

 Back in Sai Kung marina

Saturday, April 18 - Going Home

We woke up sad it was our last day in Hong Kong and dreading the long trip home to Seattle.  If you know me well, you know I'm a get up and leave type person at the end of a trip.  Our flight was not until 7:20pm.  Therefore, a fun activity was planned to distract me from the angst of waiting around.  We motored and then sailed onto Pak A, High Island Reservoir and had lunch at Yau Ley.  

 Fish farms by the restaurant

The Yau Ley boat will come pick you up at your boat.

 Chili and salted squid

 Salt and pepper spare ribs

 Fried soft tofu

 Pan Fried udon noodles with beef

Black pepper shrimp

Looking at these last photos, that was a lot of fried food in one meal.  A last big bang before we head out I suppose.  Of course I failed to photograph the leafy greens we had.  Yes, we did eat vegetables.

After lunch, we made our way back to the dock at Sai Kung, cleaned ourselves up, packed up our bags and said our goodbyes.  It was a trip of a lifetime.  I would never have imagined sailing around Hong Kong could be so beautiful.  We were blessed with perfect weather, expert planning, excellent company, wonderful and generous hosts, and treasured memories.  Visiting Hong Kong is enough of an experience and adventure, getting to go on this sailing trip made it truly a TOAL (Tim's term for trip of a lifetime). Cheers and happy boating!