That afternoon I took myself away to the kitchen to deal with my quinces. A quick search online taught me that quince were similar in texture to apples, but harder and drier, and had a tough core and skin that must be removed. This was an accurate description, and the fruit was easy to peel but difficult to cut. With a little elbow grease I managed to get all three fruit cored, sliced, and diced, and into a large saucepan they went along with some cold water, a squeeze of fresh lemon, and about a cup and a half of white sugar. From here it was easy – I just cooked the fruit over medium heat until it softened and turned a dull red, which I must say took a lot longer than I expected, close to an hour and a half. The fruit never really broke down, so when it was done I took my stick blender to it to create a smooth, slightly grainy paste. The flavor was lovely, sweet and floral and aromatic, but subtle. I poured it into a tupperware container, and after sitting in the fridge overnight it had stiffened properly into a firm, sliceable block of membrillo.
There’s something really beautiful about this stuff, isn’t there? Shiny and jewel-like with that lovely knobby texture on the surface, it spreads like a jam but can be cut into cubes or slices with ease. Its sticky, mind you, but I don’t mind getting a little messy for something this tasty.
Now, the obvious thing to do with membrillo is to eat it with a good manchego cheese, perhaps some marcona almonds, a few water crackers. But, J and I being who we are, we had to come up with something more interesting. We had a bit of prima donna cheese in the fridge (because when do we not?) and a small pork tenderloin, and after a bit of thought came up with the idea for a quince-glazed pork roulade filled with grated prima donna and herbs.
I took a knife to the tenderloin and used a lengthwise accordion cut to create a large, thin, flat surface with the meat. A 1/2 cup or so of the membrillo was warmed up on the stove with an equal amount of water and a sprig of fresh rosemary, and kept on the heat long enough to infuse the glaze with a subtle evergreen aroma. I seasoned the pork with salt, freshly ground black pepper, a sprinkle of garlic powder, and some chopped fresh rosemary, then spread a thin layer of the glaze all over the meat. I grated some prima donna, about half a cup, and piled it near the middle of the meat, leaving an inch or so around all the edges to try and prevent leakage during cooking. Then a quick roll and tie with some butcher’s twine, and it was ready for some heat.
The roulade was seared on the stovetop first, then placed in the oven at about 450 degrees to roast. I brushed it with the glaze 3 or 4 times as it cooked, creating a golden brown sticky-sweet crust.
Meanwhile, J made some simple panko-crusted zucchini slices but cutting two small zucchini into 1/2″ slices, seasoning with salt, pepper, and paprika, and dredging with egg and light, crisp panko crumbs. They were lightly panfried in some vegetable oil and then left to drain briefly on some paper towels as I removed the pork from the oven and set it aside to rest and let the juices redistribute and the filling firm up a bit.
Once untied and sliced, the pork retained its shape to yield lovely spiral slices with a thin layer of sweet and savory cheese filling. To plate. we dolloped each serving with a bit of the remaining membrillo glaze and a bit more freshly grated cheese, with the fried zucchini alongside.
My goodness, this was good. The combination of flavors – salty, tangy, sweet, herbaceous – was just fantastic on the mild tender pork. The meat itself could have used a brining period prior to cooking, and next time that’s what we’ll do, but the concept behind the dish was definitely sound. The slightly sweet, crisp zucchini slices made a nice fresh-tasting foil to the richness of the meat, and all together it made for a fantastic meal.
And the best part is, I have plenty of membrillo leftover to enjoy. I wonder what else we can make with it?