Canard à la Rouennaise, aka Pressed Duck, canard au sang...
No real recipe here, but the story of my first try of this iconic dish, served, for the virtue of example in the prestigious restaurant La Tour d'Argent in Paris. For this trial run, I made it with a "normal" duck, meaning a bled duck, instead of a duck asphyxiated or killed any other way allowing to retain the blood. Despite that, I was positively surprised by the quantity of blood extracted even though its color was a bit pale as compared with what a non-bled duck would render. This had an effect on the texture and the final color of my sauce, which was delicious though. To extract the blood, I used a $80 fruit press found on Amazon. It worked remarkably well. Okay, it is not in silver, as it is supposed to be in order to avoid blood oxidation... That said, in at least two videos, I saw the chef showing the recipe who learnedly explained that the press should be in silver for this very reason... and who collected the blood in a steel sauce pot!!!
I follow most of the instructions of l'Ordre des Canardiers, the association/brotherhood promoting this way of cooking ducks. The story of this recipe, as told in the Canardiers's site is interesting. First, the duck breed used is called Canard de Rouen and is in fact a crossing between wild mallard male ducks and locally (meaning in Normandy) raised female ducks. As the site cutely says it, the mallard ducks needed to make some stops during their migration. Making a break in those duck farms was for them a good way to combine business and pleasure... As for the origin of the recipe, the story is that those duck farmers based in a Seine loop had to cross the river to sell their ducks on the market of Duclair, a small city in the West of Rouen. The ferry fee was based on the number of packages, not on their weight. So, the farmers used to fill their packages with as many ducks as possible to save money. Generally, and logically, a couple of ducks died during the trip as a result of this treatment. As per the story, the pressed duck recipe was imagined in a view to cook those asphyxiated ducks...
For the record, I cooked the legs and wings as per the recipe recommended by the Canardiers, i.e. coated with strong Dijon mustard, breaded (with oatmeal in my case) and roasted. This recipe has a beautiful name, au feu d'enfer, i.e. "by the hellfire"... Instead of serving them in two consecutive dishes, I served together the breasts cut in slices (aiguillettes) and coated with the blood and liver-enriched sauce, and the legs au feu d'enfer, with duck fat-roasted celeriac and apple dices. In compliance with the Canardiers' recipe, I also seasoned my sauce with the 4-spice mix (black pepper, clove, nutmeg and ginger) and I was even more Normand than the Normandy tradition depositaries, as I flambéed my sauce with Calvados, a local apple brandy, instead of Cognac or Amargnac, and I used cider vinegar instead of lemon to enhance the acidity of the sauce.
Still plenty of things to correct and improve, the duck of course, but also my timing and organization, since, although the duck cooking time is very short, around 15 minutes and even 12 minutes here because I wanted to have as much blood as possible, the preparation afterwards is very time-consuming and calls for a great number of operations. That said, this was fun, and delicious.
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