Vermont Antiques : Presse a Canard
Here it is, our latest find in Vermont Antiques. Nothing we would ever need, but what fun. We spied it in an antique shop in Montreal on a recent visit. It called to us from a whole lot of really beautiful things. Although neither of us had ever seen one before, it just looked like something we should have at our Vermont Bed and Breakfast. Somehow, we both knew what it was – a duck press.
Sure enough, the tag on it said Presse a Canard, 1800’s, made in France. We really didn’t plan on buying the press, but we took the dealer’s card, just in case.
That afternoon, we talked about the duck press a lot, how it would be fun to re-create the classic French dish, pressed duck. Neither of us had ever eaten it, but we remembered Julia Child writing about it. So, here you have it, two suckers for French food and beautiful things – we really don’t mind if they’re useless, almost makes it better. Dinner talk was all about the duck press, how fabulous it would look in the dining room, what a sweet addition it would be to our little collection of antique culinary stuff.
So, after a good night’s rest, it still wasn’t out of our systems. Waiting for David to get ready to leave our hotel, I Googled the duck press. Funny how wrong you can be about something. We assumed that the press would be used to extract the juices out of the roasted carcass, to make some heavenly sauce for the duck meat. That’s not entirely wrong, but it’s not close to right either. At the risk of offending anyone that might ever read another one of my blog entries, the press is all about getting as much blood out of the barely cooked carcass as possible. It all starts with strangling a live duck so that as much blood as possible remains in the carcass. It doesn’t get better from there. Organs are involved.
After David finished showering, I shared the news, he was not deterred. Good news, a phone call to the antique dealer revealed that no one beat us to the punch. It was all ours, he could have it boxed up within the hour. So, off we went back to the antique quarter in Montreal to pick up the presse a canard.
Oh we were so excited to get this beauty home. We had its spot in the dining room all picked out, just had to make the three and a half hour drive home. Only one delay – US customs. Being the honest folks that we are, of course we declared the duck press. Well, you can’t imagine how excited these folks got over this thing. They asked: “A duck press??? What does it do??? You have to strangle a duck??? You make a sauce out of the blood?” We provided our receipt, but they were really more interested in the purpose of the press, and in getting a look at this thing. Three separate agents questioned us, including a supervisor. They kept asking if we planned to use it, with a certain horror on their faces as they awaited our response. It had to be unpacked from its big box for inspection. (We weren’t allowed to help in this process, had to wait inside the custom’s office, very high security.) I guess that they eventually concluded that it was in fact a duck press, we weren’t terrorists, and they cleared us to bring it into the country.
It now happily resides in our dining room at the Village Inn of Woodstock, probably not to be used anytime too soon. Oh don’t get us wrong, we thought about trying to use it, but where on earth are we going to get a duck and strangle it, and who on earth would want to eat this with us? Heaven forbid we got our hands on a live duck, next we’d have to negotiate who is going to strangle it. Luckily this sort of treatment for animals is outlawed in our country.
For now, I think that I’ll stick to my recipe for slow roasted duck. If you’re afraid to cook duck, or have not had great results, this method really is the no-fail ticket. Stay tuned for the recipe.