Timpano or BIG NIGHT–Friday, October 29, 2010

Checking out the pan –a washtub timpano pan ordered online

If you read my last post, you’ll know the ‘hood was getting ready to make the timpano.   We had been talking about engaging in a BIG NIGHT  for years.  Somehow (ok, it was me) we never got around to it until next-door-neighbor Sara ordered the pan and got us on the road to very full tummies.  We invited other neighbors and friends and set to work.  By Friday, thanks to Sara, the pan was ready, the sauce was cooking, the sausage was fried up, and the eggs were boiled.  MaryPat and I were in charge of buying wine and making antipasti.  Marylu was doing the dessert.  Others:  eating was their job.  Eating and watching the movie.  And having a BIG NIGHT.

If you’ve never heard of a timpano (Italian for timpani–it’s shaped like a drum) before, it’s an entree for an army that’s cooked up in the movie, “The Big Night,” (1996) starring Tony Shaloub, Stanley Tucci, Isabella Rossellini, Minnie Driver, Marc Anthony, etc.   I do not know if this dish was made up for the movie; it could have been.   The premise of the movie is as follows:  two Italian Brothers (Primo-chef and Secondo-restaurant waiter, manager, host, etc) open a restaurant that just doesn’t seem to be making it.  The red sauce, cheapa– place down the street (owned by a dubiously friendly guy) makes a bundle.  Why not Primo and Secondo?  In order to pay the bank and secure their future, they decide to plan and execute the party to end all parties. (The Big Night)  Louis Prima will come and sing; he’s the fine friend of the dubious red saucer.  Right.  The party will have all kinds of food, but the piece de resistance will be the timpano, a big layered entree (pasta, meat, cheese, eggs) that fills a washtub and is surrounded by a thin, crispy crust much like a pizza crust.  (In the movie, the timpano is actually a primi-or first course.)   Even Primo, great chef that he is, isn’t sure when this mother is done.  Well, of course it gets done; in fact, he makes TWO of them.  One is for Louis Prima.  I won’t spoil the movie for you, but this cult classic will turn your tastebuds and twirl your fancy.   It may even encourage you to plan a “Big Night” for yourselves and your friends like we did.   If you don’t want to make timpano, order pizza and pasta from the local red sauce place (!) and do it anyway.
Here are the pictures, which tell the story better than I can:

First, the sauce. Sauce cooking, cooking, cooking.  Lotssasauce.  Started night before.
Next:  more shopping and then chopping..cheese, meats, boiled eggs.  About 3pm.

Dough:  getting started rolling and taking turns.  It must be 1/16″ thick.  It starts with four c flour, salt, olive oil and water.

Boiled eggs:  16 of them.  One more part ready.

Mise en place–getting  some of the meat together, too while someone else rolls dough.  Meatballs, Genoa salami, Italian sausage.  Lots of chef snacks.  No wine, though.  I drank tea.  The recipe suggest drinking all the way through this process; I thought not.
Getting going on the dough: you can do it if you try eye… rolling dough on floured cloth. Oven preheated.  Pan at side–ready.
Keep rolling; it’s not big enough.  Your turn.  Arms tiring.

The dough… a lot of rolling paying off.  Let it rest.  Let us rest.  It’s about 36″ in diameter and 1/16″ thick.  Will it come off the  (floured) towel or stick?

Chef Mary Pat and the pan that would never be filled?

Bringing the layers to the counter for the mise en place–having everything ready to go before we begin layering into the dough.

The dough.  The pan.  The beauty of it all.  This is really going to happen.  Is it?  We’re still wondering…  There’s only one big problem.  We forgot to grease the pan.  That’s right.  Though I didn’t remember that until I was putting the antipasti platters together.  I didn’t tell Sara til after it was done and I didn’t tell MaryPat until right before we tried to get it out of the pan.  Read on.
Brave, now: layers of pasta and sauce, meats and boiled eggs.  How many layers, how deep?  Talk, talk. Don’t make it too full. Needless to say, a lot of cooks could have spoiled the broth, but we kept at it.  We are still friends.

One person read the recipe; two filled the dough.  Those at home prayed.

It’s full.   It’s full!!!!  Now the dough must be completely sealed. Fold, fold.  Don’t pull. You don’t want holes.  Cut and trim.

And you do this how with the dough?  No double layers allowed. Trim excess.

Into the oven, ready or not.  Happy.  Tired.  How about a nap?  Oh, the antipasti must be fixed.  It’s near 5pm now.  People are coming at 6:30.  In the meantime, Dave is at home grilling and running out of propane.  He ends up grilling the veg on the camp stove.  So much for the big gas Weber we bought for Father’s Day.  You actually have to remember to buy a tank of propane once in a while.  My advice about keeping an extra container have gone unheeded.  Of course, where would you store THAT sucker?  Dave has also run to Marigold for baguette.  Who wants pasta without bread?  I know.
Grilling vegetables for antipasti…gotter done.  Baby bok choy, mushrooms, endive, squash, eggplant, etc.

                 Fennel sauteed with onions and garlic and white wine… to garnish the veg platter…and to eat!!!  Love fennel.

Dressed up for timpano, a friend arrives early to help.


Meat and cheese antipasti-proscuitto, soppressata, mortadella, provolone,  pepperoni-garnished with artichokes, olives, and a sugar pumpkin I’ll later fill with pumpkin soup.

Grilled vegetables with aioli…yum.  Fennel fronds at right edge for garnish.  Dave does the ferrying back and forth to the neighbors’.  Little friend goes along to open doors.
  When we arrive-finally-the timpano has been deemed done and TA DA!!!  It’s out; it’s out.. Look at that. (Is it done?  How do we know?)  But now we wait.  It must cool; it you cut it now it will splat all over.

One more bite of vegetables while we wait.

One more sip of wine…while we wait.  While it cools.  It’s not ready?


It’s looking readier; Dave banged it out of the pan (phew) Salad’s good to go.

Ready for its closeup.  Hope it tastes better than it looks.  It’s awesome, though.  Still waiting….

Look at that thing!  How much longer?

And.. here it is, folks…inside the timpano.  Mike does the initial surgery.

Sara-happy. We did it!  We did it!

Let’s eat.

  But we have to watch the movie, too.   It worked.
Eat a little; watch a little; drink a little.

Depleted antipasti and vino

“I know you ate too much.”

A last glass of wine.

Dessert via Marylu:  each stem a different flavor of gelato.

Movie’s over.  Time to clean up. Ah, gee.

  This was a one-dog kitchen project:  Moss, aka Timpano Dog…kept us company throughout.  Actually, he just was praying we’d drop stuff.  Of course, we did.


Our recipe came from the Tipsy Cook blogpost on the subject:

Note on recipe:  he leaves out the amount of oil for the crust.  It is 3 tablespoons.   Later (I didn’t see this til now), he had re-written the crust recipe, changing it totally and THAT is not on the original post, but in Jan of 2010:


You might want to try the second crust.

While the recipe worked very well and the process is excellently documented, my overall impression was that it could have used more moisture (more sauce/more beaten egg?) and that the layers were too jumbled to be viewed truly as layers.  For example, the salami layer:  I think there were 2 cups? of salami.  Unless you doubled that or tripled that, the salami just melted into the pasta or eggs below.  You needed a fair amount more in a layer for it to TURN OUT like a layer or like the layers in the movie’s timpano.  Just a thought.  Same thing with other meats, but I wouldn’t increase the boiled eggs too much.
You’ll have to read it yourself; I think it’s 15 pages long.  Have fun.  As Julia would say,

“Have the courage of your convictions” when you cook it, but mostly when you turn that thing out of the pan!

Sing a new song; have a big night,

2 thoughts on “Timpano or BIG NIGHT–Friday, October 29, 2010

  1. Help ! We are trying to hunt down the tipsycook recipie. My friend made it last weekend. We both saved the link, but the acount shows suspended. Ugghhh! Please tell me you printed this recipie and have it to share :).SBonesbone1995@comcast.net

  2. Sorry! Have been in the process of moving from Colorado Springs to St. Paul, MN and missed this comment. I may have saved the recipe, but I do not yet have the boxes that it may be in. Could you email me in 6 weeks or so? Thanks!

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