THIS IS one of my favorite winter stews. Quinces are equally delicious in savory and sweet dishes, and Greek islanders cook all kinds of meats with quince. On Chios, they pair quinces with free-range chicken; on Crete, with lamb; and on Lesbos, with veal. Here, the firm, fragrant fruit, with its appealing sour taste, balances well with the sweet sugar syrup and spicy rich meat sauce.
The combination of meat with quinces is not new. In the Roman cookery of Apicius, we find similar stews, and quinces must have been quite common in old traditional Greek cooking.
This stew can be prepared almost entirely in advance and refrigerated. Then you need only simmer the meat in the sauce for a few minutes and caramelize the quinces just before serving. Leftover sauce makes an unusual but excellent pasta sauce, or it can be used in pasticcio.
In a large pot, combine the veal, onion,
Fill a medium bowl with water and add the lemon juice. Quarter and core each quince, then halve each quarter lengthwise. Drop the quince pieces into the bowl of lemon water as you work.
In a large skillet, heat the remaining
Remove the veal from the pot and cut it into four ½ -inch-thick slices. Bring the cooking liquid to a boil and boil over high heat until it has evaporated and only fat remains in the pot, 10 to 15 minutes. Return the veal slices to the pot and sauté, turning, for 5 minutes, or until browned. Add 8 of the less attractive quince pieces, the sweet wine from the skillet, the dry wine, 5 of the prunes, the Aleppo pepper or pepper flakes, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, allspice, stock and salt to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 45 minutes, or until the meat is very tender.
Transfer the veal to a plate and set aside. Discard the cinnamon stick and bay leaf. Transfer the quinces, prunes and sauce to a blender and puree. Return to the pot and add the remaining 4 prunes and the remaining quince pieces to the sauce and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the quinces are soft but not mushy. Carefully transfer the quinces to a small baking pan in a single layer, cover and keep warm.
Add the vinegar, if using, and black pepper to taste to the sauce. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Return the meat to the sauce and simmer for 10 minutes more, or until heated through.
Meanwhile, preheat the broiler. Sprinkle the quinces with the remaining 2 to 3 teaspoons sugar and broil until caramelized, about 2 minutes.
Place a slice of veal, a prune and some caramelized quinces on each plate. Pour a little sauce over the meat, sprinkle with the parsley and serve, passing the remaining sauce at the table.
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