The arrival of quince is a landmark of late fall: quince are traditionally the last tree fruit of the year to show up on the farm stands, usually in mid to late November. So they have for me an association with the holidays of the end of the year. This may be, in part, because quince pair well with game, mushrooms, goose, duck and foie gras, all of which show up on French Christmas and New Years menus.
Here in the Béarn, duck is finally becoming available again (and more affordable!) after a number of lean years due to the Bird Flu. Since late summer, the new vaccine for Bird Flu is in widespread use here, the heart of French duck and foie gras production. I am hopeful that I will once again be able to make a terrine of duck foie gras for Christmas.
While quince is often used in desserts, jams and compotes, this recipe features it in a savory preparation. The pairing with rosemary helps bring out the floral flavor of the quince.
Pan roasted duck breast with roasted quince and cabbage
- 1 magret of duck (breast of moulard duck), about 12 oz
- 1 large quince
- Juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 1 T honey
- 1 large sprig rosemary
- Salt and fresh ground black pepper
- 8 oz savoy cabbage
- Neutral oil, such as sunflower or canola
|1.||Peel the quince, quarter, remove the core, then cut in wedges. Toss with the lemon juice to prevent the quince from browning.
|2||2. Trim any excess fat from the duck breast, then crosshatch the fat side of the breast with shallow cuts. This helps the fat to render and the skin to crisp up when roasted.
3. Remove the core from the cabbage and cut in wedges. Put the wedges into a baking dish, season with salt and pepper, drizzle with a few tablespoons of melted butter and put to cook in a hot (400 deg) oven. Continue cooking until the cabbage is tender and nicely colored.
4. Melt a nice knob of butter in a saute pan. Add the quince wedges, season with salt and pepper, drizzle with a tablespoon of honey, toss well. Add the rosemary sprigs to the pan, then move to a hot oven. Continue cooking, tossing often, until the quince pieces are just tender but not mushy.
5. In a heavy saute pan, heat a few tablespoons of neutral oil until smoking. Add the duck breast, fat side down and sear until the fat is well colored. Turn the breast, move the pan to a hot oven. Continue cooking, basting often with the pan fat, to an internat temperature of about 130 degrees. Remove the breast from the pan to a warm plate and let rest 4 minutes. The breast will continue to cook during the resting and end at a perfect medium rare.
6. Slice the breast on an angle. Arrange the slices of breast on 2 warm plates, garnish with the roasted cabbage and quince. Spoon over any pan juices from the quince and serve immediately.
7. Serve with a light red wine. I served a bottle from Domaine Eric Chevalier, which is located in the Loire Valley near Nantes. The cuvée Emeri is made from pinot noir and grolleau grapes, and it is substantial enough to stand up to the fatty duck but also light enough to bring out the floral qualities of the quince. Delicious!