22 May 2011

Gypsy Kitchens: (Not Really) Wienerschnitzel

Before we get to pictures of fried stuff, two things should be mentioned. First, we're not proud about cooking schnitzel. It's a gross, greasy experience that leaves both cook and diner soaked in oil. If your stomach is easily turned by pictures of unhealthy food, don't continue reading the post.
A second clarification, this can't really be called "wienerschnitzel." In Austria, only veal may be used if a dish is to be called by that venerable name. By law, a pork schnitzel - what we made - must be called a "wiener schnitzel vom schwien," so that nobody gets confused.
Schnitzel can't really be called Austrian, even if they would like to claim it as their own. Similar foods can be found everywhere - breading and frying meat is a universal urge, it seems. Its essence is mitteleuropean, though, and months in Belarus, Ukraine, Poland and Germany have made us less than enthusiastic about its ubiquity.
In this country, avoiding this national dish can be difficult. Rebecca and I were successful except for two occasions, when necessity and bad luck forced capitulation. Above is my first Austrian schnitzel, served to me in a campground restaurant by a proud waitress. There were seven different variations on the menu, and almost nothing else. This preparation involved pumpkin seeds, which were mixed in with the breading.
This is Rebecca's "fish schnitzel," or, as it was described on the menu, "gebackene forelle." Mistakenly translating this into "baked trout," she ordered it. Later, it was revealed that, in Austria, "gebacken" means "breaded."
After this dinner we made a pact. No more schnitzel until we get to Vienna - "Wien" in German - and can cook it for ourselves. Tonight, we actually heated up the pan and did it.
The supermarket was out of veal, so I decided to go with pork instead - which is actually much more popular here, and easier to find. The packaged meat was already made into thin cuts, so I didn't have to pound it. Also, we decided to do some mushrooms at the same time, and Rebecca got a filet of trout from a man at the farmer's market. We used packaged breadcrumbs because we don't travel with a food processor.
The process is quite easy. First, if the veal or pork isn't pre-flattened, pound it until it's about a quarter inch thick. Heat a lot of oil in a large pan until very hot. Flour both sides of the cutlet (or fish, or mushrooms) until the meat is completely dry. This is a good time to add salt, too. Next, dip the meat into beaten egg, then cover in bread crumbs. Immediately put into the pan, cooking for about three minutes on each side. If you are cooking fish, reduce the cooking time to about a minute per side. The mushrooms can just be cooked until they are nicely brown.
Some notes:
- Use enough oil that the meat is really almost floating, maybe an eight of an inch in the bottom of the pan. We used a mix of olive oil and pumpkin seed oil, which is popular here. Any type of oil or grease can be used as long as it has a fairly high smoke point and you like the flavor.
- Rebecca only breaded the bottom of her fish, but still turned it over (for about twenty seconds) to cook the top. The picture above is of her trout, freshly out of the pan.
- Be gentle with the breading. Don't mash it into the meat - that will cause it to stick on and lose the puffy airiness which is (supposedly) desirable. Also, don't give the breadcrumbs time to soak in the egg.
- I won't give exact proportions for the recipe, as they will depend heavily on how many people you're feeding. Use at least two beaten eggs and a half cup each of the flour and breadcrumbs. Any less and it might be difficult to cover the meat.
- We ate it with a slice of lemon, squeezed over the top. It helps the flavor and brightens it up a little.
Here's my schnitzel. It wasn't bad, except that all schnitzel is mostly bad. The pumpkin oil, which we had hoped would give it some nuttiness (and had feared would turn it green) ended up tasting fairly neutral after it was heated up. A surprise: the mushrooms were the best part of the meal.

1 comment:

  1. because it has the same 3-step coating process as the chicken milanese i recently made, i think that you could pan sear in light oil (not olive and preferably peanut) until only lightly browned and then finish cooking in oven....to avoid the greasiness....

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