I’m lucky enough to live in a place where a local caterer specializes in Paella, and it’s really out of this world. I’ve been to several events where the Paella King has served the main course as well as appetizers, and the whole experience is a real winner. I’m pretty sure making Paella is out of my league (I don’t even have that big flat pan), but the Manchego cheese and Quince Paste appetizer is something I thought I might be able to manage. When a friend offered up some ripe quince off her tree and a copy of a Quince Paste recipe, I decided to give it a whirl. Who knew it would take me 2 days and about 8 hours of work? And who knew it would be such a hit with friends and family? I’m just including the recipe my friend gave me (which she got from Epicurious), but I’ll offer a few pointers and observations first. The whole process took a long time for me, mostly because I didn’t factor in steps like letting the baked fruit cool, so it got too late and I had to spend the next night after work finishing up, etc. And the step of pushing the paste through the fine sieve was messy and aggravating. I later talked to two other friends who make Quince Paste every year and they never do this step for what it’s worth. My first batch of Quince Paste was so well received that it lasted less than a week, and I had made 6 small bricks of the stuff. So I bit the bullet and made a second batch the next week, while the process was still fresh in my mind and the food mill was still out on the counter. For those readers unfamiliar with quince, it’s a large fruit that resembles a cross between an apple and a pear, but the skin is tougher and often covered with a yellow powder. It’s tart, so baking or jams are the best way to use it. The combination of the sweet Quince Paste and salty Manchego cheese seems to be popular in Spain, Portugal, and all over South America.
Quince Paste (from Epicurious) 4 medium quinces (about 2 pounds total) 1/4 to 1/2 cup water 2 to 3 cups sugar
- Preheat oven to 350°F and lightly oil a 1-quart terrine (I used some Corningware).
- Scrub quinces and pat dry. In a small roasting pan bake the quinces, covered with foil, until tender, about 2 hours, and transfer pan to a rack.
- When quinces are cool enough to handle, use a sharp knife to peel, quarter, and core them.
- In a food processor puree pulp with 1/4 cup water until smooth (if mixture is too thick, add the remaining 1/4 cup water a little at a time, as needed).
- Force puree through a large fine sieve into a liquid cup measure and measure amount of puree.
- Transfer puree to a 3-quart heavy saucepan and add an equivalent amount of sugar.
- Cook quince puree over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until it is thickened and begins to pull away from side of pan, about 25 minutes. (You’ll be surprised when it really does start pulling away from the sides, and sadly, it really does take about 25 minutes of constant stirring.)
- Pour puree into the terrine, smoothing the top with an offset spatula, and cool. Chill puree, loosely covered with plastic wrap, until set, about 4 hours.
- Run a thin knife around sides of terrine and invert quince paste onto a platter. (Quince paste keeps for 3 months, wrapped well in wax paper and then plastic wrap and chilled.)
- Slice paste and serve with cheese and crackers.