Whenever I’m lucky enough to find quince at the store, I immediately grab a few. It is such a wonderful and versatile fruit. A shame its’ season is fairly short.On top of being such a fragrant fruit, quince has so much pectin in it, it is no wonder that its’ main use is in making jams, jellies and fruit pastes. (Check out this wonderful blog for great recipes for both jam and jelly.) Quince is also great for making Pate de Fruit, a recipe for which I hope to post soon.
However, the uses of quince are not limited to sweet dishes. All over the Mediterranean and the Middle East, quince is used in many savory dishes, mainly in lamb or meat stews. The quince adds its unique aroma, slight acidity and sweetness to the dishes and thickens the sauce.
As I was about to make my variation of Duck a l’orange, I’ve decided it can only benefit from the addition of quince. The result turned out to be even better than the original, so I will surely use this recipe again.
I served the dish with plain couscous, but roasted or mashed potatoes, or polenta, are also great on the side.
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 2 hours
3 duck legs (about 1.5 lb, 750 grams), preferably fresh, at room temperature
(If using frozen, thaw slowly in the fridge overnight)
2 tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 large oranges
1 cup chicken stock
2 Tbs cider vinegar
2 medium size quince
¼ cup sugar
2 Tbs water
3 bay leaves
1. With a sharp knife, make a few superficial cuts in the duck’s skin (this will help release the fat), and separate the drumstick from the thigh.
Place a medium size wide pot over medium-high heat and add the duck, skin side down. Fry the duck in its own rendered fat, for about 5 minutes, until the skin is golden. Turn and fry for 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel, to absorb the fat. Sprinkle with 1 tsp salt and ¼ tsp black pepper. Drain the fat from the pot (keep it, it’s great for roasted potatoes!), and clean it.
2. Meanwhile, use a vegetable peeler to peel the orange layer out of two of the oranges. With a sharp knife, cut into thin strips and place in a bowl. Cover with boiling water, let cool and drain.
3. Juice the oranges and measure 1¼ cups juice. Add the chicken stock and vinegar to the orange juice and set aside.
4. With a heavy, sharp knife, cut the unpeeled quince into quarters. Remove the cores and cut into medium size cubes. (The quince cubes will not keep their shape during the cooking if peeled.)
5. Preheat the oven to 300F (150C).
6. Mix the sugar and 2 Tbs water in the pot and cook over medium-high heat until the syrup changes its color to amber. Make sure not to wait too long or the caramel will become bitter. Carefully, add the orange juice/chicken stock mix to the pot. (Don’t be alarmed if the sugar creates a lump, it will dissolve later on). Add the bay leaves and the remaining 1 tsp salt and ¼ tsp black pepper. Mix and bring to a boil.
7. Add the duck, quince cubes and orange zest. Cook for 5 minutes. Cover and transfer to the oven.
8. After 1 hour, reduce the oven temperature to 220F (105C) and uncover the pot. Bake for about 40 minutes longer, basting occasionally, until the duck is very tender and almost falls off the bone, and the sauce reduces.
9. Take the pot out of the oven and place over medium high heat. Cook for about 5 minutes, to reduce the sauce even more. Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning if needed. Serve hot.