This antique culinary tool made quite a splash some years ago when restaurants began serving the elaborate pressed duck dish of French fame. It seems to be having another moment in the sun these days. If you’re wondering what a duck press is, then read on.
Considered by many to be the most spectacular entree in classical French cuisine, the duck press is a device and method of preparation that was invented by a man named Machenet in Paris at the dawn of the 19th century, quickly becoming popular among the culinary elite. It looks like a torture device, but it’s really just a mechanical juicer for a duck carcass that extracts all the marrow and juice for a flavorful sauce.
The contraption and its corresponding dish, canard à la rouennaise (or, “duck in blood sauce”) was later adopted by Chef Frèdèric of the restaurant La Tour d’ Argent (or “Silver Tower”), making it his restaurant’s signature dish, which they continue to serve today. This has come to be known as canard à la presse, or “pressed duck.”
Rediscovering the Duck Press
Food and Wine recently brought the duck press back into the spotlight because the Anthony Bourdain auction catalog listed one from his estate. Of course, he had one!
Laura D’Alessandro’s story, “How It’s Done: Bresca’s The Duck Press,” featured in the July edition of FSR magazine included this lovely illustration by Claire McCracken. The duck press is at Bresca, a D’Artagnan client in Washington, DC.
The Washingtonian noticed Bresca and Chef Ryan Ratino’s Duck à la Pressé in a recipe roundup of the best dishes in DC.
Duck à la Pressé
Where: Bresca, 1906 14th St., NW
Tableside preparations are having a moment. The most elaborate around here comes courtesy of chef Ryan Ratino’s antique duck press, a gift from D’Artagnan owner Ariane Daguin. Roasted duck bones are pressed in the 19th-century contraption, turning the juices into a luscious bordelaise-style sauce for dry-aged duck breasts presented alongside a braised-duck-leg tart, salad, and milk-bread buns. Get there early—only four are available per night.
We featured Ryan Ratino on the blog if you want to see more of his work, and here’s a video of the pressed duck being made at Bresca:
Chef Ryan isn’t the only one pressing ducks! Our client Chef Michael Beltran at Ariete in Florida just got a shiny new duck press a few weeks ago, and he’s pressing our Rohan duck for a 3-course dinner menu. Follow his adventures with the duck press on Instagram.
Will this antique device make a comeback in more kitchens? We sure hope so! Have you ever tried this unique duck dish?
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