2015 Blanche

Turmeric-Poached Pears and Smoked Duck with Fris̩e Salad РBrigit Binns РCookbook author
Serves 8 as an appetizer

“The discovery of a new dish confers more happiness on humanity than the discovery of a new star,” said French gastronome Brillat-Savarin circa 1810. I dreamed up this dish specifically to pair with Denis and Pandee’s wonderful Domaine Degher Willow Creek Blanche, for Thanksgiving in 2016. Smoked duck breast is widely available at well-stocked markets; I buy multiple breasts when I can find them and store in the freezer, for instant gratification. 


2 firm pears, such as Bosc or Conference

1 bottle fruity-sweet dessert wine, or inexpensive white port

3 long ‘fingers” of fresh turmeric root, peeled and roughly chopped


To serve:

1 tablespoon aged sherry vinegar or Banyuls vinegar

1 teaspoon raspberry or honey mustard

3 ½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

Generous grinding of black pepper

1 small shallot, peeled and minced

Pale inner leaves from 1 small head of frisée, very roughly chopped

1 to 1 ¼ pounds smoked duck breast, at room temperature


  1. Cut a slice from the bottom of each pear so it will stand upright in the poaching pan. Peel the pears from the base toward the stem, leaving the stem intact. Place them in a small saucepan, just large enough to hold the pears standing up, but no larger. Cover the pears with the wine; they should be covered up to the base of the stems. Add the turmeric and bring the liquid to a slow simmer; cook partially covered, gently turning the pears occasionally if necessary, until only just tender, 15 to 25 minutes depending on how ripe they are. Let the pears cool completely in the liquid, uncovered (this will add more color); transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon. Over high heat, reduce the poaching liquid over high heat until it is quite syrupy. If desired, refrigerate the pears and the syrup for up to 24 hours. Cradling each pear gently in your hand, scoop out the core from the base, using a “melon baller” or small teaspoon. 


  1. To serve: In a mixing bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, olive oil, salt, and pepper; thoroughly fold in the shallot and frisée. In a blistering-hot cast-iron skillet, quickly sear the duck breasts skin-side down only, about 20 seconds (just for color; the breasts are cooked). Slice breasts a scant ¼-inch thick and fan on individual plates or a platter. Divide each pear into quarters lengthwise and fan a quarter-pear next to the duck. Scatter a little salad over all and drizzle the plate with the reduced poaching liquid.