Happiness is a Crispy Breadcrumb-coated Schnitzel
A proper schnitzel should be crisp, wafer-thin, and tender
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When someone talks about schnitzel in my presence, I immediately think of my first visit to Vienna. After a long sightseeing tour through the cultural capital of Austria, there was only one wish left on my to-do list: To eat a real Wiener schnitzel.
Exhausted and starving, I found myself in one of Vienna's many inns. As soon as I entered the restaurant, the smell of sizzling fat wafted into my nose and the not so inconspicuous pounding of the meat tenderizer on the counter could be heard from outside the kitchen—this was the place to be!
The birth of the crumb coating
Like many other traditional dishes, the birth of the breadcrumb coating can be traced back to the art of using (food) leftovers as tastefully as possible. Already several centuries ago, old bread was made into crumbs to thicken sauces or soups. So it’s inevitable that certain foods were also coated with golden breadcrumbs and fried in fat. It’s believed that recipes for fried veal cutlets have been around since the 18th century, but the word "schnitz", "schnitzchen" or "snitz" only started appearing in literature around the 19th century, where it’s described as a thin slice of meat for frying. The “Wiener Schnitzel” as we know it seems to have been fully integrated into the German language and cuisine around the beginning of the 20th century.
Following the trail of breadcrumbs
I expect the following characteristics from a good veal cutlet: It should be wafer-thin, tender, and of course, insanely crispy. Schnitzel is traditionally made with veal, but if you can't find veal, you can also fall back on pork. Just don’t forget to use high-quality meat.
A little tip: Slice the meat as thinly as possible, then cover it with plastic wrap or place it in a ziploc bag. This is very important, because we don't want to destroy the fibers of the meat when tenderizing (otherwise it’ll become tough). The best way to do this is with a flat and smooth meat tenderizer. Start pounding your meat into a uniformed thickness—and put some passion into it!
Let's get to the breadcrumb coating
This is where the breadcrumb trail comes into play. For this, three bowls or deep plates with flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs are placed next to each other in that exact order—thus, a small trail is formed. Each piece of meat is first dredged in flour, then the beaten eggs, and finally coated with breadcrumbs. In addition to the quality of the meat, the frying temperature is what ultimately determines whether a tender cutlet ends up on your plate. Make sure the pan is hot when you add your fat, whether that’s clarified butter or lard. This ensures that the pores close immediately, preventing any juices from spilling out of the meat. Try not to overcrowd your pan with cutlets and fry them one by one, if necessary. Each side only needs approx. 2 - 3 min. to take on that crispy exterior we all know and love of schnitzel. Don’t be afraid to pile on the clarified butter or lard, because the breading can absorb quite a lot. Think about it this way: Your schnitzel should literally be swimming in fat.
A schnitzel and mushroom love affair
My favorite variation of breaded veal is Jägerschnitzel (German schnitzel with mushroom gravy), because I’ve always been a lover of sauces. The more sauce on the plate, the bigger my smile is in the restaurant. If you want to prepare Jägerschnitzel, the best thing to do is to start with the preparation of the sauce. I usually use brown mushrooms, because they are a bit more intense and nuttier than their white counterparts.
Heat a frying pan over medium heat and fry the mushrooms. Add butter, chopped onions and garlic, and sauté. Thicken everything with a roux, deglaze with chicken broth and cream, then season with spices and voila! Let the mushroom sauce simmer gently over low heat while you see to the frying of the cutlets. Are you hungry now? Find our step-by-step recipe and video for Jägerschnitzel below. Happy cooking!
Published on September 26, 2020