A Meal Fit for a Habsburg
The beautiful city of Vienna is where I’m taking you today, for a lovely meal fit for royalty or peasant. Schnitzel is a simple, but tasty dish that’s been translated into variants all over the world.
Countries all over the world, even some in the Orient and Africa, have celebrated the simplicity of a breaded and fried cutlet. I remember in Slovakia how many dishes served that were variants of schnitzel. My favorite was an interesting idea where a chicken breast was butterflied and then stuffed with peaches and cheese. The breast was then coated and fried like any other schnitzel. I will attempt to remake this one day.
Most of us in the United States have only known schnitzel from local German restaurants and pubs. However, variants have existed in local diners for decades as chicken fried steak, pork tenderloin, and veal cutlets. Even those breaded chicken patties one finds in fast food establishments can be attributed to the schnitzel.
Now I mention Vienna today because that’s where schnitzel was actually created. “Wiener” has nothing do with wieners or sausages the way some think. It means “Viennese” as in from Vienna. When you look on a map, you can see Vienna is often spelled “Wein” and thus you hopefully see the connection.
I love schnitzel. It’s a great dish offering one loads of imagination and creativity. You can use different types of boneless meat, seasonings, sauces and gravies. I even managed to bring a Mediterranean flavor to schnitzel and healthy it up with a few changed ingredients.
First off, we’re going traditional with how I like to do Wiener Schnitzel. Check out the variations for other ideas and how I did the Mediterranean style.
- 4 boneless pork chops or chicken breasts
- 2 eggs
- 1/8 cup of milk
- 1 cup of flour
- 1 cup of bread crumbs
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Oil for frying
- Lay the meat on a board and pound it with a tenderizer. You want the cutlets to be evenly about 1/2″ to 3/4″ thick.
- Season the meat with salt and pepper to your personal taste.
- Crack the eggs into a dish or shallow bowl and beat thoroughly. Mix in the milk.
- Pour enough oil into a deep skillet to come up about 1/2″. Heat up the oil on high or medium high.
- Coat each cutlet with flour, then the egg/milk mixture, then breadcrumbs.
- Gently place the cutlet into the hot oil and protect yourself with a spatter guard.
- Cook the schnitzel about 3-5 minutes per side. You want a nice golden brown color.
- Carefully remove the schnitzel and place on some paper towels to soak off any excess oil.
I’ve been asked what oil you can use. I used canola oil on the schnitzel in the above photo, but I’ve also used vegetable oil. Some can use corn oil, and even for the Mediterranean version I’ll get into, I used a cheap olive oil.
I urge you deeply to have everything ready before you coat and fry the meat. Hot oil is a danger and you’re better off not having any distractions. Protect yourself with a spatter guard and turn down the heat if things are getting too “wild” in the pan. I suggested a high or medium-high heat because like I said with Fish and Chips, the high heat will cook and harden the coating faster and thus you won’t end up with a soggy greasy schnitzel. If you have access to a deep fryer, then use it. Use a pair of tongs when turning or removing the schnitzel as opposed to a spatula.
Ok, I mentioned a Mediterranean version of this. It’s not anything official, but more me playing around this past weekend. I marinated some chicken breasts the way I would for typical Greek Chicken. After an overnight marinate, I covered the breasts with plastic wrap and pounded them down a bit. You don’t need to pound too much because the marinate will tenderize the meat enough. The plastic wrap will keep marinate from flying all over.
Other variations can be up to your imagination. You can literally take this in any direction with how you season the meat and any sauces you add with it. Perhaps make an orange sauce and go Chinese, or hit it with chili powder and salsa for a more Mexican flair. The sky is the limit. I’ll eventually get into other variants based on dishes I’ve tried in my travels, like the chicken with peaches from Slovakia.
Healthy It Up
I actually managed to “healthy” up the dish a little by coating the chicken with whole wheat flour (as opposed to white) and using just egg whites as opposed to whole eggs. Breadcrumbs were added to some of the breasts, but I tried panko crumbs on some of them. For the frying, I picked up a cheap $3 bottle of olive oil from Aldi and used it. Don’t waste big money on expensive extra virgin olive oil for this. Save it for the salads and dipping bread.
I have to admit the end result was amazing. The chicken was cooked perfectly and was very juicy while the outer crust was crunchy and delicious. I didn’t see any difference in taste in using whole wheat flour and egg whites from when I made Wiener Schnitzel traditionally. The panko crumb versions were even better. Such a great crunch. I urge you all to try this.