After a long day at work, I went to blow off some steam at Sur la Table and indulge in a mini-shopping spree, courtesy of Dr. J, who gave me a store gift certificate for Christmas. I’m not a huge fan of shopping in the plaza where Sur la Table is located, only because the parking situation is pretty awful. In fact, my shopping trip got off to a potentially bad start, as some bat-out-of-hell crazy bitch brazenly stole a parking spot from me (even though I CLEARLY had my blinker on to indicate my intention to park there).
I found another spot after circling a few times, and was still pretty pissed about the whole encounter as I walked toward my shopping destination. Once I stepped through the double-doors, though, my agony quickly turned into ecstacy. I mean, how could you stay in a bad mood while entering a kitchen paradise like this?
I tried to contain my kid-in-a-candy-store excitement by casually wandering over to the pastry section, pretending to focus on a few things at a time even though my brain and eyes were darting all around, trying to process all the stuff that packed the store shelves. The store was my oyster, and I had a generous gift card with which to shuck it. What to buy, what to buy??
Soon, I was filling up my wire basket with a variety of items for consideration, being careful not to pick up kitchen tools that sound really cool but in reality would probably gather dust in my drawers, such as ravioli presses, cherry pitters, oyster knives and doughnut pans. Seriously, there seems to be a tool for everything.
As I narrowed down my selections–a French rolling pin, stainless steel pastry dough scraper, a double pastry cutter and some prep bowls–I noticed something interesting sitting nonchalantly on the floor:
I only recently learned about the duck press during a recent random conversation with my colleague Stu, so I instantly recognized it as something you don’t find every day in your average retail store. But then again, Sur la Table isn’t just any retail store, I suppose.
This odd-looking, medieval torture device-like tool is used to make, well, pressed duck, otherwise known as canard à la presse for all you people who speak Paris talk. Pressed duck is a classic French dish that was created in the 19th century by the famous Tour d’Argent, whose façade inspired that of Gusteau’s, the fictional restaurant in the movie Ratatouille.
So how does it work? The short explanation is this: You strangle a duck to preserve its blood, roast it, cut up the choice parts, like the breast and the legs, then crush the rest of the carcass, bones and all, in the press to extract all the marrow and bloody juices to make the special sauce, usually made with port, Madeira or, for a gruesomely delicious twist, foie gras. Then you serve the duck with the sauce, which by all accounts is amazing.
The entire process is done tableside at first-rate restaurants to entertain dinner guests. Here’s a prime example of pressed duck service at Next Restaurant in Chicago:
Not that you’d be able to actually see all this anymore–the restaurant’s menu changes four times a year, usually inspired by a concept, such as “Paris 1906.” In fact, you’d be hard pressed (har har) to find one of these things at your average dining establishment.
Which is probably why Sur la Table can sell a duck press to you for the low, low price of $1,995. Believe it or not, that’s a pretty good price, considering the fact that an Ercuis duck press will cost you $14,335, while a Christofle one will run you $85,221. Yet more reasons why rich people are not like us.
I doubt I’ll ever get to taste pressed duck anytime soon, unless I get into the business of selling duck presses myself. I think the Swedish Chef’s version of “preeessed dook” is more my speed and budget.
Bork, bork, bork, everyone! (Translation: Have a great weekend!)