On Chios, quinces are paired with free-range chicken; on Crete, with lamb; and on Lesbos, with veal. With quince from our trees on Kea I make a stew with the delicious local veal shank, but I also cook pork with quince. I give any meat extra flavor by tying the cores of the fruit in cheesecloth and adding them to the cooking broth. This recipe is a somewhat faster version variation of my Veal Stew with Quince.
4 quinces, about 2 pounds
1 lemon, quartered
About 2/3 cup olive oil
1 ½ cups sweet red wine (Mavrodaphne or Marsala)
6 whole chicken legs, separated, or a whole cut-up chicken –preferably free range
Salt and coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground allspice
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
About 2 cups Chicken Stock or more, as needed
A few sprigs of rosemary to decorate (optional)
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (optional)
2-3 tablespoons brown sugar (optional)
Prepare the Quince: Fill a medium bowl with water and squeeze the juice from the lemon. Quarter and core each quince, then halve each quarter lengthwise. Drop the quince pieces into the bowl of lemon water as you work.
Tie the quince cores in a cheesecloth.
In a large, deep skillet, heat about 6 tablespoons oil. Pat the quince pieces dry with paper towels and sauté, in batches, stirring for about 5 minutes, or until they start to color. Add the sweet wine and enough water to half-cover the pieces abd simmer for another 10 minutes, until the quince start to soften.
Transfer to a large bowl along with their juices and set aside.
Prepare the chicken: Season the meat on both sides generously with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with allspice and cumin and rub well all over the chicken pieces.
In the deep skillet heat the rest of the olive oil over medium-high heat and sauté the chicken pieces on both sides until nicely browned. With a slotted spoon remove the chicken pieces to a platter and keep warm.
Add the onion to the skillet and briefly fry, then pour over most of the quince broth and scrape up any caramelized bits at the bottom of the pan.
Add the quince to the skillet, along with the cheesecloth and any remaining juices. Arrange the chicken pieces in between the quince, add the cinnamon stick, and the bay leaves, then pour enough chicken broth to almost cover meat and quince, and bring to a boil. Half-cover the skillet, turn the heat to medium and cook for 35 to 40 minutes, until the chicken and quince are very tender, adding more broth or water, as needed. Squeeze and discard the cheesecloth and transfer the chicken and quince in a clay pot or platter. If there is too much sauce cook on high heat to reduce, then pour over the chicken and quince, and serve decorating with rosemary sprigs or chopped parsley.
If you like, caramelize the quince: preheat the broiler, then transfer just the quince pieces to a baking tray, sprinkle with 2 to 3 teaspoons brown sugar and broil until caramelized, about 2 minutes. Return to the platter with the chicken and pour some sauce over the caramelized fruit before serving.