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eG Cook-Off 76: Consider the Schnitzel


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Consider, if you will, the Schnitzel.  The national treasure of Austria, the word Schnitzel is a diminutive of the word “sniz” or “slice.”  A piece of meat, pounded thin, then coated in bread crumbs and fried.  Traditionally served simply with slices of fresh lemon, a sprinkle of paprika and maybe a leaf or two of parsley.

 

Dating back to about 1845, the most famous of the schnitzels is the Wienerschnitzel (the Swiss break it into two words-Wiener Schnitzel), always made with veal.  But the Wienerschnitzel we are discussing must not, in any way, be confused with the fast food chain "Der Wienerschnitzel", founded in California in 1971, and to this day selling "wieners" - a.k.a. hot dogs - under a pseudo-Austrian affectation.

 

Opened in 1905 by Johann Figlmüller in the heart of Vienna, restaurant Figlmüller Wollzeile has been known as the “Home of the Schnitzel.”  Serving massive portions of schnitzel draped over plates and served with a side of Austrian potato salad.

 

Schnitzel isn’t always made with pork.  Nor is it always breaded and fried as we know it.  Take the Walliser Schnitzel for example.  A pork escalope with a pocket stuffed with dried apricots sautéed in white wine with ham, parsley, cheese and almonds.  The Walliser schnitzel is brushed with a tangy mustard but never coated in breadcrumbs and fried in sauté pan in a shallow pool of butter.

 

If you’ve ever trekked through the cities, towns and fairs that dot the state of Iowa, you’ve surely come across the beloved tenderloin sandwich.  A large slab of thin pork, dipped, breaded and fried, then placed between a bun that covers literally a few inches of the beast.  A Schnitzel sandwich if you will.  Served dry, with mayonnaise, maybe a few dill pickle slices and you're tasting a slice of America's heartland. 

 

Tradition tells one that Schnitzel can also be made with mutton, chicken, pork, beef, turkey or reindeer.  Today one could stretch the idea of the protein to include a “Tofu Schnitzel” perhaps topped with a spiced mixture of lentils and harissa.   I happen to live in the Pacific Northwest where it is common for hunters to craft a schnitzel from venison or elk, the perfect treatment for lean wild game that doesn’t need more than a kiss of the hot skillet to get crispy.

 

Now the dip and fry are constant points of the schnitzel debate.  Dipped in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs is the primary technique.  Or is that egg mixed with milk, or condensed milk?  Is it a double-dip in the flour and egg?  And do we use fresh bread crumbs, panko or bread crumbs with parmesan? Wouldn’t pork lard be the best fat for frying a pork schnitzel?  Or do we use butter, shortening, canola, vegetable or olive oil?

 

As you can see we have some work to do here.  Welcome to eG Cook-Off #76 and Consider the Schnitzel. (See the complete eG Cook-Off Index here.)

 figlmueller_schnitzel.png

Edited by Smithy
Adjusted link to Cook-Off (log)
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Oh, good!  I have a couple of chicken cutlets I've been saving for just such a purpose.  My breading technique still needs some help, so I'll be interested to see how others do it.

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Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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I LOVE schnitzel, but I've never attempted to cook it before.  I've also never been a part of a cook off before.  Is it against the rules to use cookbooks or anything?  I didn't see anything in the cook-off post

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3 minutes ago, blbst36 said:

I LOVE schnitzel, but I've never attempted to cook it before.  I've also never been a part of a cook off before.  Is it against the rules to use cookbooks or anything?  I didn't see anything in the cook-off post

 

No, this is a free-for-all: folks can share their own recipes and techniques, show what they've cooked from books (with proper credit given, of course), ask and answer questions.  The point is to learn something new, or help others learn something new!

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Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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2 minutes ago, Smithy said:

 

No, this is a free-for-all: folks can share their own recipes and techniques, show what they've cooked from books (with proper credit given, of course), ask and answer questions.  The point is to learn something new, or help others learn something new!

Woo!  Sounds like fun!

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Without getting into an authenicity tangle, I think one has to accept that similar concepts span cultures and continents. I think the average person thinks of the breaded thin cutlet as Schnitzel. The nekked version, often pan-sauced, is referred to as Naturschnitzel. Which then takes you down the rabbit hole of dishes like veal scaloppine.  Taking us over to Asia we find the deep fried pork cutlet- tonkatsu; generally not as thin but very crispy.

 

So...the Wienerschnitzel of my Austro-Hungarian influenced youth is a simple pounded piece of veal, pork, or chicken which is pan fried in oil after a classic flour, egg wash, bread crumb treatment. I never got the USA tradition of cold fried chicken at picnics until I flashed back to my youthful  stealthy forways into the fridge to eat cold Schnitzel leftovers. 

 

A piece I found interesting was Melissa Clark's about trapping the air between the meat and coating to yield succulent flesh contrasted with a shattering crisp crust. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/03/dining/03appe.html  We did, depending on the cook often get a too greasy leaden crust that peeled right off- not appreciated.

 

My food tastes have changed over time and it is not something I would want to cook anymore,  but I will be a happy voyeur for nostalgia's sake.

 

 

Edited by heidih (log)
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That NY Times article will be helpful for me as I've fallen into that trap of the crust always falling off the schnitzel.  I've got some assorted berries in the freezer that I might use as an accompaniment.

 

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Addressing the Der Wienerschnitzel comments - My father was supplying dogs to them early on and confronted one of the owners about the name- not so much because "where's the Schnitzel", but that the "Der" was so gramatically irritatingly wrong. He was told it was a marketing tool to put out an interesting brand name in the burgeoning competitive fast food game. Ironically, years later when I was pregnant, I developed a serious craving for their "schnitzel-like" chicken sandwich. And now they are marketing as such!!!   http://www.brandeating.com/2017/05/review-wienerschnitzel-chicken-schnitzel-sandwiches.html

Edited by heidih (log)
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Yummmm!  I went to Austria & Germany last spring and ate a lot of schnitzel. A lot. DH had it almost every day. We had both pork and veal schnitzels, and I think there may have been a chicken cutlet once also. Served with the ubiquitous Bavarian potato salad.

 

I like mine plain, with just a squeeze of lemon.

 

Tomorrow is DH's birthday and it will be at a local German/Austrian restaurant. We will be having schnitzel.

 

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3 minutes ago, Beebs said:

 

Tomorrow is DH's birthday and it will be at a local German/Austrian restaurant. We will be having schnitzel.

 

 

If you are able - pictures would be appreciated. I'm curious about the whole size thing. In the 80's when my sis interned at Otis in Vienna she swears she put on 20 pounds between the dinnerplate sized Schnitzel and well maybe the Kaffeehaus pastries ;)

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1 hour ago, heidih said:

 

If you are able - pictures would be appreciated. I'm curious about the whole size thing. In the 80's when my sis interned at Otis in Vienna she swears she put on 20 pounds between the dinnerplate sized Schnitzel and well maybe the Kaffeehaus pastries ;)

 

Oddly, I didn't take too many pictures of the schnitzel! Most of them were taken after I'd eaten most of it already, and the only one not yet eaten was actually three smaller pieces of veal schnitzel. Maybe DH has a good photo.

 

I don't remember having any that were bigger than a dinner plate. They are quite wide, but also very thin. I'd say they took up maybe half to 3/4 of a plate??

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3 hours ago, heidih said:

...

 

So...the Wienerschnitzel of my Austro-Hungarian influenced youth is a simple pounded piece of veal, pork, or chicken which is pan fried in oil after a classic flour, egg wash, bread crumb treatment. I never got the USA tradition of cold fried chicken at picnics until I flashed back to my youthful  stealthy forways into the fridge to eat cold Schnitzel leftovers. 

 

A piece I found interesting was Melissa Clark's about trapping the air between the meat and coating to yield succulent flesh contrasted with a shattering crisp crust. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/03/dining/03appe.html  We did, depending on the cook often get a too greasy leaden crust that peeled right off- not appreciated.

 

That's funny about the cold fried chicken and the cold schnitzel.  I'd never thought of eating leftover schnitzel cold, but of course we did that with fried chicken all the time! :D

 

Thanks for the Melissa Clark article.  I'll be trying that recipe with my chicken cutlets.  One thing I have trouble visualizing is how to swirl the pan enough to wash hot oil over the top of the cutlet(s) without getting oil all over the stove and me.  Does anyone have tips on how to do that?  Is this a case where a straight-sided skillet might be better than one with curved or sloped sides?  Is the answer to how to do that swirling as simple as "very, very carefully"?

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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And this also brings up a question about the best skillet to use.  I have good non-stick, an electric skillet and an old-fashioned cast iron.  Does one work better for schnitzel?

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I make schnitzel all the time! I use Batali's recipe for Breaded Pork Tenderloin sandwich, which is a tad boring, but very delicious. It's simply pounded pork loin, breaded and fried, then served on hamburger buns. I'll gladly make some for cook-off.

 

I'd love to see what other variations there are, I love schnitzel, but always thought it was a homey, one-note meal. I'll love to see what other people come up with.

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1 hour ago, Smithy said:

Thanks for the Melissa Clark article.  I'll be trying that recipe with my chicken cutlets.  One thing I have trouble visualizing is how to swirl the pan enough to wash hot oil over the top of the cutlet(s) without getting oil all over the stove and me.  Does anyone have tips on how to do that?  Is this a case where a straight-sided skillet might be better than one with curved or sloped sides?  Is the answer to how to do that swirling as simple as "very, very carefully"?

 

Here is a bit more detail she provides in her book In te Kitchen With a Good Appetite.  I visualize a proper ratio between thin cutlet and oil depth, noting her comment about enough room ----so a gentle swirl/wrist rotation.  

 

20180206_152251.jpg

 

20180206_152314.jpg

 

Edited by Smithy
Rotated photos & removed reference to rotation, with poster's permission (log)
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6 hours ago, Smithy said:

Oh, good!  I have a couple of chicken cutlets I've been saving for just such a purpose.  My breading technique still needs some help, so I'll be interested to see how others do it.

Season before breading. This is key. Let the seasoning have time to draw moisture out of the meat. This is also key. The salt in the seasoning will act as a binding agent, so do NOT rinse. Dredge the meat in your choice of coating. Let the coated meat rest at room temp for at least 15-30 minutes before frying. This is key.

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I use a deep fryer for cooking schnitzel as, in my opinion, it is at the correct heat to fix the crumbing and thus absorbs less oil than if you use shallow frying.

 

It also gives the pockets of air described in the NYT article.

 

 

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Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
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We do have a topic on Chicken Parma. I still like to sous vide the chicken first and often don't bother with oil in the bag. Definitely sage rather than tarragon for parma. I have decided that Seranno is much nicer than Prosciutto. Sorry Nick, deep frying is far too much trouble. My main change recently is to use Panko breading. 

 

My biggest problem is getting the flour to stick to the chicken and the egg to stick to the flour. Any hints?

It's almost never bad to feed someone.

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1 hour ago, haresfur said:

My biggest problem is getting the flour to stick to the chicken and the egg to stick to the flour. Any hints?

Some people put a little bit of oil or butter on the chicken before they flour it. I usually just make sure that my chicken is still a bit moist. The flour should stick just fine. Then, be sure to shake off the excess flour completely. Otherwise, the egg and the flour will separate from the chicken. As for the egg, I always mix in a bit of mayonnaise, maybe about 2 teaspoons for each egg instead of milk. For pork, you could also put in a half teaspoon of mustard per egg. It just gives it a little bit more zip. To keep the breading from separating from the chicken or the cutlet, bread it at least an hour before you plan to fry it. Someone before in the thread mentioned leaving it at room temperature for about 15 minutes. Since I live in the tropics, sometimes my kitchen is too warm to feel comfortable about leaving it in the heat so I put mine in the refrigerator for up to two hours before dinner. When you fry them, whatever you do, don't crowd the pan. Have sufficient oil and be sure that it is hot enough that the cutlets sizzle when you put them in the pan. I almost forgot to mention, season your chicken or cutlet about 10 to 15 minutes before you are ready to dip it in the flour. This will create some moisture on the surface that helps the flour to stick to it.

 I hope this helps.

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Well now - I believe this is my first contribution to an eG cookoff.  History is being made!

 

Reading the suggestions above, I find I follow almost none of them, but I have no trouble with the coating falling off.  Dumb luck?  Here's tonight's dinner, step by step.

 

A couple of supermarket chicken breasts:

1.png

 

Beaten into submission with the rolling pin:

2.png

 

Seasoned flour, egg, breadcumbs:

3.png

 

Ready to go:

4.png

 

In the pan, one side done:

5.png

 

This is a very loose attempt at a parm.  Home-made tomato sauce and a few bits of mozzarella, ready for finishing in the oven:

6.png

 

And done, with some sauteed vegetables (I've just remembered I'd forgotten the basil leaves):

7.png

 

Tasted OK, too.

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Leslie Craven, aka "lesliec"
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