Quince is a strange fruit. It looks like a cross between an apple and a pear and smells sweet and floral. It is hard as a rock, a little fuzzy, and not very tasty on its own, yet a wonderful addition to many recipes, adding a three-dimensional tartness to pies, tarts and jams.
Quince are prized by many local chefs and appear on menus at many of Vancouver’s best restaurants. Quince is even the namesake of one of Kitsilano’s boutique food shops and cooking schools (West 3rd and Burrard).
Despite the fact Quince are grown across BC, many people have never even seen one, let alone cooked one up. It ain’t easy to find quince in Vancouver. But I tried anyway, going on the hunt for quince to make one of my favourite seasonal recipes—Quince Tarte Tatin.
I finally found quince at the Winter Farmers’ Market at the Nat Bailey Stadium each Saturday, and more conveniently, at Kitsilano’s Parthenon (the specialty Greek supermarket 3080 West Broadway), where there is still a box of them left. With quince season rapidly coming to an end I suggest you give them a try, and perhaps revive the classic apple French tart with a new ingredient. Get the full recipe after the jump.
Recipe: Quince Tarte Tatin
Makes one 10 or 11 inch tart
11/2 cup sugar
5 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature (cut into 5 pieces)
1 tsp ground star anise
4 pounds (about 7) quince, peeled , cored and cut into 1 inch wide wedges
1 dish of sweet pie dough (make your own or buy)
Vanilla bean ice cream or crème fraiche for serving
1. Combine the sugar and ¼ cup water in a 10 or 11 inch ovenproof skillet and place over medium heat. Stir until sugar melts then raise the heat to medium-high and cook without stirring, occasionally brushing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush to dissolve any sugar crystals, until the caramel turns a light brown (about 10 minutes). As the caramel begins to take on color, swirl the skillet to distribute the syrup so that it colors evenly.
2. Immediately remove the skillet from the heat. Add the butter and star anise, stirring until the mixture is thick and smooth.
3. Arrange the quince wedges in circles on top of the caramel, placing them rounded side down. Fill in any gaps with small pieces of quince.
4. Position a rack in the center of the oven. Place a rimmed baking sheet on the rack, and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
5. Roll out pastry dough to form a 11 or 12 inch round (1 inch larger than your skillet). Then, carefully transfer the dough to the skillet, placing it on top of the quinces. Tuck the edges of the dough down along the sides of the skillet. Using a sharp knife, cut several 2-inch slits in the pastry so the steam can escape during baking.
6. Place the skillet on the baking sheet and bake the tart until the quinces are tender and the pastry in golden, 50 to 60 minutes.
7. Transfer the skillet to a wire rack and let cool for about 30 minutes (or until pan is warm but cool enough to handle).
8. Run a small knife around the edges of the skillet. Invert a large flat platter over the skillet, and holding the platter and skillet together tightly, invert the tart onto the platter. If any pieces of fruit have remained in the skillet, carefully remove them and place them in the tart. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or crème fraiche.
Recipe from Food to Live By, by Myra Goodman.
Parthenon Greek Supermarket, 3080 West Broadway, 603-733-4191, Parthenon supermarket.com
Last modified: December 2, 2011