Monday, May 28, 2018

assembling a timpano

One of the most ambitious pasta dishes I've ever seen is the timpano, which in Italian can mean the eardrum, a kettle drum, or just generically, a drum. I first encountered this dish while viewing a "Binging With Babish" video devoted to it. Andrew Rea (Babish himself) normally re-creates food from movies and TV shows, and in this case, the timpano came from a movie called "Big Night," which I have yet to see. Here's the Babish video:

This would be an all-day prep for yours truly, especially given how slowly I cook to begin with. Aesthetically, I have to say that the outside looks awful: the "crust," such as it is, is basically a gigantic sheet of pasta that cradles the innards, gets wrapped over the top (which becomes the bottom once the thing finishes baking), and is exposed to the blast-furnace heat of the oven, thus producing exactly what you'd expect to happen to over-baked pasta: an unpleasantly brown crust that doesn't look appetizing at all. By contrast, the interior of a properly baked timpano looks miraculously beautiful, and it's probably because the crust endures so much punishment that this happens: the enormous pasta sheet acts as a shield, deflecting and diffusing the oven's heat, allowing the dish's innards to cook to perfection.

I might one day try my hand at baking a miniature timpano (then again, if I'm going miniature, you're justified in asking what the fucking point is), but a project like this either requires a single cook to spend all dingle-damn day on it, or requires two or more people to work on it simultaneously so as to get everything prepped in a timely manner. While the project is intimidatingly huge, it also looks like fun... which doesn't come through as much in the Babish video as it does in the following BuzzFeed video, in which two guys—posing as cooks—go at it and end up with what I thought was a pretty impressive result, arguably even better, looks-wise, than what Babish produced. Have a look for yourself:

In the latter video, when that first slice is pulled away from the main body of the timpano, you see how well it holds together structurally. The innards also strike me as more colorful than Babish's, and the final presentation, with that lovely sprinkle of cheese and herbs, makes for a prettier image. This is a case where, I think, the newbie cooks have beaten the pro chef. The second video also highlights the fun you can have when cooking becomes less of a lone-wolf endeavor and more of a social activity. The real payoff, of course, comes at the very end, when all the BuzzFeed staffers appear on camera and cheer the unveiling of this chef d'oeuvre.

I might seriously consider making a timpano at some point. Maybe I'll make it to celebrate the day I'm officially out of debt, which will most likely be sometime early next year. Something to think about, ja?

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