Have you ever heard of pressed duck before?
Pressed duck also goes by another name, canard à la presse or canard au sang – duck in blood.
And yes, that is French for a very good reason.
Pressed duck is a classic French recipe.
Well, this dish was first served in the 19th century by restaurant La Tour d’Argent in Paris. And who knew that it would immediately become a culinary highlight!
It still is considered by many to be one of the most spectacular recipes in classical French cuisine.
What is pressed duck?
In short: a roast duck carcass is slowly pressed and crushed between 2 silver plated metal plates to extract the remaining juice and blood.
That juice is used to make a sauce and served on top of the sliced duck breast.
Who invented pressed duck?
That was a man by the name of Machenet.
He was the one that came up with the idea of using a machine to press the duck carcass as a method to use every drop of the duck juice and blood for the sauce.
That was in Paris in the early 19th century, and it quickly became very popular among the culinarily elite and other top chefs at that time.
Why do you press duck?
Why do you press duck.
A duck press is used to squeeze out any blood, juices and marrow that are trapped in an oven roasted duck carcass.
That liquid is caught and then sifted, and used as a base for a flavorful blood sauce.
Even Anthony Bourdain had a duck press at home, one he bought at the famous E. Dehillerin cookware store in Paris.
How is pressed duck made?
So how do you make a canard à la presse?
It already starts with what type of duck you need to make it.
A young duck is used for this recipe. That is why this dish is often called Rouen style duckling or caneton à la rouennaise in French.
Why is that?
The meat of a young ducks is much more tender and flavorful.
Rumor has it that the ducks from the Challans region in the Loire area in France are the best to make this pressed duck classic.
Now here comes the hardest part for some.
Pressed duck is all about the blood sauce, and therefore the ducks can’t be shot or beheaded of course or they would loose too much blood or even bleed out.
To keep all the blood inside the bird, the ducks are suffocated for that purpose.
Once the duck has been plucked and the blood inside has coagulated, its neck, head and legs are cut from the rest of the body. Its intestines (also the duck liver) are removed.
Now the duck is ready to be roasted in the oven.
Usually (not always) the legs are roasted as well, the meat picked off the bones and used in another small creation that can be part of your pressed duck dinner.
Once the duck is roasted, the tender breast fillets are sliced off and kept warm for a little later. The remaining carcass is placed inside the press and squeezed manually.
Juices and blood are collected in a small pan or container to make the sauce later.
And that’s that!
Pressed duck dinner at restaurant Minerva, Antwerp
A couple of months ago we went to restaurant Minerva in Antwerp.
It is one of the very few places that still makes this classic pressed duck specialty.
One of the things we love about canard à la presse is the table side preparation!
Here’s how the duck press works:
- the roast duck is put inside the press container
- the container goes into the press, a sauce boat put in place to catch the liquid
- the wheel is spun manually to tighten the press
4. the carcass is squeezed entirely when the wheel is at its lowest
5. the duck press is tilted to let all the juices flow into the sauce boat
6. the duck juices are poured into a small pan to thicken and enrich the blood sauce
After the sauce is finished, the roasted duck breast is sliced thinly and plated up.
With the blood sauce of course, and roast vegetables on the side.
And how does it look on a plate then?
You might be asking.
Here’s how canard à la Rouennaise dinner looks like at restaurant Minerva in Antwerp!
A gorgeously roast juicy duck breast in a gravy like blood sauce.
Served with mashed potatoes and roasted endives.
And super thin pommes gaufrettes crisps.
That is your main course right there.
And what about that last treat then?
That is the pulled meat from the duck legs bathing in blood sauce, topped off with a potato mash.
Called a duck parmentier.
We enjoyed our canard à la presse dinner with a bottle of Langhe Nebbiolo 2017, an excellent red wine red fruit notes from Piemonte, Italy.
So what does pressed duck taste like?
While this method and preparation might sound barbaric, pressed duck and its blood is absolutely delicious.
Well that is a hard one to describe actually
We would say that it has an earthy flavor.
A bit gamey, umami even.
What is wor shu duck?
Wor shu duck or Cantonese pressed duck also goes by the name of Chinese pressed duck.
However this one has nothing to see with the French style pressed duck.
Wor shu duck is steamed duck that is deep fried twice and that results in a very crispy duck that melts in your mouth.
How much does a duck press cost?
It depends on the brand, and what material it is made out of.
The price of a good duck press start from $1750 onwards and can even go as high as a 5 to 6 digit number for the state of the art device.
Quite the investment for a restaurant, just like a good old eye catching Berkel meat slicer.
Where to eat pressed duck
Not a lot of restaurants still serve this classic French delicacy.
Your best bet in France is Rouen or Paris.
La Couronne, 31 Pl. du Vieux Marché, 76000 Rouen (112 euros for 2)
Tour d’Argent, 15 quai de la Tournelle, 75005 Paris (reopening in 2023)
Minerva, Karel Oomsstraat 36, 2018 Antwerp (86 euros for 2)
Au Vieux Port, Napelsstraat 130, 2000 Antwerp