1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1-3/4 cups fresh peas or 1 cup frozen baby peas
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup arborio rice
3-3/4 cups hot chicken stock
Makes 4 servings.
Source: Super Foods Cookbook
Kate Krader wrote . . . . . . .
According to just about everybody, the future of dining in America can be summed up in two words: fast casual.
But before you imagine your world full of nothing but chicken tenders and kale caesar salads, I’d like to direct you to a contrary trend—the rise of old-fashioned cooking tools and methods, along with a focus on things that take time. Specifically, I’d like to introduce you to the duck press, a tool dating back to the 1880s that has surfaced at such top New York restaurants as Daniel, Per Se, La Grenouille, and Shun Lee Palace and is probably making a comeback at the reinvented Four Seasons, too.
Made famous in the 19th century by the grandest of grand restaurants, La Tour d’Argent in Paris, the recipe for pressed duck calls for essentially one ingredient—duck, duh—and one key piece of equipment.
What Is It?
Standing some two feet tall and weighing in at about 20 pounds, the duck press is a very specialized thing. It’s used to press the blood from the bones and internal organs of a duck, which is then stirred into the sauce that’s spooned over the roasted bird. While it might sound like something from Bizarre Foods, the result is quite delicious—the blood thickens and enriches the sauce, adding a singularly earthy umami flavor. It’s the poultry equivalent of a perfect black-and-blue steak, though more intense and flavorful.
The duck press itself looks like a torture device, albeit a beautiful one. Some presses have claw feet like those on an old-school tub; all are topped with a wheel and screw mechanism to press down and extract the blood from meat and bones. They’re available on EBay; you’ll want one of the great antique presses, which start around $2,000. You will find a duck press in approximately zero home kitchens, yet the sight of one will evoke images of stupendous, Downton Abbey-style, white-tie dinner parties for those who know.
Who Uses a Duck Press?
At the fine dining bastion, Daniel, on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, chef and owner Daniel Boulud has installed one in his kitchen. (Rapper Action Bronson tested it out.) Rumor has it that the Carbone team’s much-anticipated Grill, which will take the original place of the Four Seasons, will feature a pressed duck-style dish.
The reigning duck press champion, however, has to be Laurent Gras. He’s been called “ounce for ounce, the best chef in the world” by Momofuku’s David Chang, and his résumé counts stints in the kitchens of several of the world’s legendary French chefs, including Guy Savoy, Alain Senderens, and Alain Ducasse, whom he helped win three Michelin stars. It was at Paris restaurant Lucas Carton that Gras first used a duck press in the early ’90s, becoming so obsessed that he bought his own in a Paris antique shop for about $200. Later, when he became chef de cuisine at Louis XV in Monte Carlo, he employed one to make a version of the dish with lobster, pressing the juices from the head for a sauce to coat the poached tail and claw meat.
In the way that crafting a perfect omelet or loaf of bread is the test of a great chef, Gras considers pressed duck his masterpiece.
“Essentially, you’re making roast duck in sauce. It just takes about 30 steps to do it,” he said. “It’s one of the most unique preparations in the world, and yet it’s only duck.”
Testing the Press
One recent morning, Gras, who is doing a series of pop-ups around New York, brought his cherished duck press to Bloomberg’s Manhattan office to create the dish for a select group.
The process started several days earlier: Gras ordered ducks from a special supplier in Canada, which he finds produces the most flavorful birds. He dried them in a refrigerator for two weeks before cooking, which both concentrated the flavor as the moisture evaporated and tenderized the meat as muscles broke down. Even if it’s not destined for the duck press, he said, a duck merits sitting for a few days before cooking. “Fresh duck is not a selling point to me,” advised Gras. “It will always be tough.”
Gras browned the whole bird on its leg and breast sides, and then roasted it for about 15 minutes in two consecutive cycles, letting it sit halfway to keep moist. He carved the duck, setting aside the meat for plating and pouring any juices into a bowl.
“Every drop of blood and juice is precious now,” he said, adding that the process makes him feel a little bit like Dr. Frankenstein. Gras transferred the cut-up remnants and odd bits of duck into the duck press and started pressing.
This is harder than it might seem; it takes effort to turn the wheel. Once he got it moving, it was exciting to see a steady, if modest, stream of blood start to flow. Gras then stirred the blood into a sauce made from roast garlic, duck liver, and foie gras mousse, plus chicken stock he had brought to cook with duck legs, and duck bones, to pump up the stock’s flavor. (The additional duck legs will provide a great dinner on another night.). Gras’s surprise ingredient was a little bittersweet chocolate. He is not into adding unconventional flavors to his duck sauce—he made a face when Szechuan peppercorns were mentioned—but he did allow that modest orange, chiles, or cognac can be added to the sauce. “Black truffles get people’s attention, too,” he said, smiling.
After about three hours in our test kitchen, the pressed duck was done—although Gras said that, in a restaurant setting, he would add five hours to the entire process (with more time for resting) to achieve even more ethereal results. Still, our results were incredible: meaty, gamy slices of duck breast and the whole duck legs, with outrageously crispy skin. Most important was a deep, dark-brown sauce, as thick as custard, with a luxuriously rich, sweet, earthy flavor and the texture of soft velvet.
If anyone ever offers to make pressed duck for you, your answer must always be: “Yes.”
Magnesium could hold the key to preventing one of the most preventable causes of disability in middle-aged to elderly people, according to new research led by academics at the Universities of Bristol and Eastern Finland.
Bone fractures are one of the leading causes of disability and ill health especially among the ageing population and this increases the burden on the health care system. It is well-known that calcium and vitamin D play an important role in bone health. Magnesium is an essential nutrient and is an important component of the bone. Though there have been suggestions that magnesium may have a beneficial effect on bone health, no study has been able to show its effect on bone fractures.
Researchers at the Universities of Bristol and Eastern Finland followed 2,245 middle-aged men over a 20-year period. They found that men with lower blood levels of magnesium had an increased risk of fractures, particularly fractures of the hip. The risk of having a fracture was reduced by 44 per cent in men with higher blood levels of magnesium. None of the 22 men who had very high magnesium levels (> 2.3 mg/dl) in the study population experienced a fracture during the follow-up period. In the same study, dietary magnesium intake was not found to be linked with fractures. A finding that has been consistently demonstrated in several previous studies.
Dr Setor Kunutsor, Research Fellow from the University of Bristol’s Musculoskeletal Research Unit and lead researcher, said: “The findings do suggest that avoiding low serum concentrations of magnesium may be a promising though unproven strategy for risk prevention of fractures.”
Although blood levels of magnesium depend on magnesium intake from food and water, this may not be the case for the elderly, people with certain bowel disorders, and those on certain medications. For such people, increasing the intake of foods rich in magnesium may not necessarily increase blood magnesium levels. Treating the underlying conditions and magnesium supplementation may be another way of avoiding low blood levels of magnesium.
These new findings may have public health implications as low blood levels of magnesium are very common in the population. This is especially among middle-aged to elderly individuals who are also prone to fractures. Majority of these individuals do not experience any symptoms. Since blood magnesium is not measured routinely in the hospital, individuals with low levels of magnesium are very difficult to identify. These findings could help trigger initiatives to include blood magnesium screening in routine blood panels, especially for the elderly.
Professor Jari Laukkanen from the University of Eastern Finland and principal investigator, said: “The overall evidence suggests that increasing serum magnesium concentrations may protect against the future risk of fractures; however, well-designed magnesium supplementation trials are needed to investigate these potential therapeutic implications.”
Maybe this will be the news that finally jolts you off the couch and into an exercise program.
A new study suggests that being physically active increases the chances of survival after a heart attack.
Researchers compared exercise levels among 1,664 heart attack patients in Denmark, including 425 who died immediately.
Those who had been physically active were less likely to die, and the risk of death decreased as exercise levels rose. Patients who had light or moderate/high physical activity levels were 32 percent and 47 percent less likely to die from their heart attack, respectively, than the sedentary patients.
The study was published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
“We know that exercise protects people against having a heart attack,” said study co-author Eva Prescott, a professor of cardiovascular prevention and rehabilitation at the University of Copenhagen.
“Animal studies suggest that myocardial infarctions [heart attacks] are smaller and less likely to be fatal in animals that exercise. We wanted to see if exercise was linked with less serious myocardial infarctions in people,” she added in a journal news release.
“One possible explanation is that people who exercise may develop collateral blood vessels in the heart which ensure the heart continues to get enough blood after a blockage. Exercise may also increase levels of chemical substances that improve blood flow and reduce injury to the heart from a heart attack,” Prescott said.
She added this caveat: “This was an observational study so we cannot conclude that the associations are causal [cause and effect]. The results need to be confirmed before we can make strong recommendations.
“But,” Prescott added, “I think it’s safe to say that we already knew exercise was good for health and this might indicate that continuing to exercise even after developing atherosclerosis [hardening of the arteries] may reduce the seriousness of a heart attack if it does occur.”