Monday, January 21, 2013

It's All About Comfort Food

Now that we are in winter mode (not really baking),we have time time to explore passions other than baking. Usually, during part or the winter we take a nice long trip somewhere fun, exciting. We're ALWAYS looking for new and unusual bakeries. Well, this year (so far, that is) we've been having a "stay at home vacation".

That gives us time to do some R&D (which we are doing), and the chance to try some long awaited comfort foods.

This idea came from the 1996 move Big Night... "A failing Italian restaurant run by two brothers gambles on one special night to try to save the business". If you have not seen nor know of the movie, a great review can be found here.

The "end all" dish of the evening is when the Timpano is sliced.  Timpano is a mixture of pasta, meat(s), cheeses, and sauce all encased in a savory pastry. Coming up with a recipe for this time-consuming meal, I poured over things on the web, and then headed back to two books books we have: Big Night In by Domenica Marchetti and Savory Baking From The Mediterranean by Anissa Helou.  

While neither gave me exactly what I was looking for the two (along with some twists) helped me create this....our version of Timpano. 

Let's make the sauce...Pork Ragu

3 pounds boneless pork shoulder (cut into three or four large pieces)
Olive oil (enough to just cover the bottom of the pot)
3 large yellow onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup red wine (dry)
7 cups chopped canned tomatoes with their liquid (you can use a mix of stewed, Italian...whatever you like)
4 fresh or dried bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons (or one large sprig fresh) rosemary
1 pound bulk Italian sausage (regular or hot, if you like 
Cut pork into 3 or 4 large pieces.

Season pork well with seal salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Add olive oil to large heavy bottomed stock pot.  When hot and "shimmering" add pork and let brown 5-7 minutes (get it nice and brown).

Remove pork shoulder once it is browned on both sides and reserve on plate. Add enough olive oil to the pan to coat, add chopped onions and garlic. Saute until the onions are softened and translucent, and beginning to caramelize about 10 minutes.

Add red wine, bring to boil and add pork, tomatoes, bay leaves, rosemary and salt.  Cover pot, bring to boil, reduce heat to low.
While the pork mixture is coming to a simmer, brown the Italian sausage in another pan, drain and add to bubbling pot.
Cover pot, and simmer for 2-3 hours or until pork shoulder is fork tender and shreds easily. Remove pork shoulder from pot, let cool, then shred and return to pot. Remove bay leaves and rosemary stem.  Adjust seasoning.
The sauce can be made up to two days in advance, kept covered in the refrigerator.

Completed Sauce
And next...the meatballs

1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/4 cup whole milk, heated to a simmer
1/4 cup ground beef
1/4 pound ground pork
1/4 pound ground chicken (or turkey)
1 large egg
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or pressed
4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Line baking sheet with wax paper.  In large bowl, combine bread crumbs with warm milk, stir and let cool. Add all of the remaining ingredients, and mix with your hands or wooden spoon. Mix well, but don't over-mix. Using small ice cream scoop, (about 2 teaspoon size) portion meatballs, round, and place on pan. Continue until all mixture is used. Refrigerate meatballs for about an hour.

Using pan that you browned the sausage in (or another one), add oil to coat bottom of pan, fry meatballs on medium high heat, browning on each side until fully cooked. Remove with slotted spoon and place meatballs on a paper-towel lined platter. Continue you have fried all meatballs.

Meatballs can be made up to two days in advance, kept covered the refrigerator.

Prepare to assemble the Timpano 

Heat oven to 375

Now the fun starts. Have ready:
1 10-inch spring-form pan, well greased
3 hard boiled eggs, peeled and quartered
1 cup frozen peas
12 ounces dry penne pasta
1 1/2 quarts Pork Ragu (above)
1 cup diced Cacio di Roma cheese.
1 cup diced fresh mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 batch savory herb pasta dough (below)
1 beaten whole egg (with 2 tablespoons of water)

Making the Savory Herb Pasta Dough

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, chipped and cut into small cubes
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoons herbs de Provence
4 to 5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice.

Place flour, salt, butter and herbs in large bowl. Cut butter in with pastry cutter, or rub between fingers to for a crumbly texture (don't mix too much).  Add eggs and and 4 tablespoons water.  Mix with spoon just until dough comes together. Turn out onto lightly flowered surface and gently pat the dough into a disk.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed, or at least one hour.

Combine cheeses, cut hard-boiled eggs into quarters.

Bring large pot of generously salted water to a boil.  Add penne pasta and cook the pasta until it is very al dente, it should be slightly underdone.  Drain pasta.

Place pasta in large bowl and add 1 1/2 quarts of the pork ragu. Toss to combine, then add the peas, all the cheeses and fold to combine.

Remove pasta dough from the refrigerator, divide into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other.  Roll the larger one to fill and come up the sides of the pan with overlap (see photo). Trim so that you have some overhang.

Fill pastry lined pan with 1/2 of the pasta mixture, top with hard boiled eggs, meatballs and (you will have some meatballs left over).

Top with remaining pasta mixture until the pan is slightly domed.  You may have some extra filling, reserve for other use.

Roll remaining dough into disk approximately 12 inches in diameter.  Brush bottom crust edge with some egg wash. Carefully place top crust on pan. Fold edges under and crimp to seal.

Brush the top of the Timpano with the remaining egg wash. With sharp knife, cut three 2-inch slits across the Timpano.

Bake at 375 for 45-50 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.  Remove from the oven, place on cooling rack and let set for 45 minutes. This may seem like a long time, but it needs to set to "firm up".

Remove the spring form ring from around the Timpano.  Slide an off-set spatula or pie server between the bottom of the Timapno and the bottom of the cake pan to loosen it. Gently slide the the Timpano onto a large serving platter and bring it to the table. Using a large serrated knife, slice into wedges.

Enjoy your hard work!

To see the big reveal...