Before visiting Vienna (read my food path through old Vienna here) I had only had one great schnitzel in my life, and that was at the Tivoli Club, in Prahran, a German club with platter-sized schnitzel, cheap boutique beers and lederhosen to be enjoyed in the glow and tinkle of the inevitable poker machines that you always find in struggling Australian pubs and clubs. The schnitzel was to die for – it came about 15 different ways, in varieties of pork, turkey and veal, and with various flavours – Jäger, Zigeuner, Paprika, Käse, Rahm, or my favourite, Holstein – with fried egg, onions and capers. But to be honest, it’s really all about the schnitzel itself. It’s the kind of meat that every carnivore loves, including the super-fussy three-year-old kind of carnivore.
- 500g lean meat, preferably pork or veal
- 2 eggs
- splash of water
- ½ cup plain flour
- salt and pepper
- 1 ½ cups breadcrumbs
- oil for pan-frying (canola best)
- In three separate bowls place; seasoned flour; beaten eggs with a splash of water; breadcrumbs.
- Slice meat then flatten with a rolling-pin (thump, don’t roll) until twice the size but half the thickness.
- Coat the meat in the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs, then pan-fry until golden brown.
It’s easy to make an ordinary schnitzel – so how do you make a great one? It’s also easy. The secret to schnitzel is two-fold – cut of meat, and how you cut (and smash) the meat.
- Firstly you must buy a medallion style cut – a roundish slab that can be sliced into thin steaks. It should be grissle-free and fairly fat-free. You know those lovely looking pieces of meat like veal girello and pork loin that look great when raw, but always seem to turn into bricks when you cook them any other way? Those are the ones. The reason they are difficult to cook is because they are almost devoid of fat, and from a heavily used muscle. Tough, lean cuts of meat need lots of work or lots of fat to make them taste good.
- I prefer pork loin, but veal is traditional. I like to buy it in about a 15cm slab, and then trim the outside fat off, and slice into pieces just smaller than a centimeter wide (about a ¼ inch). Then I take two sheets of cling film, and sandwiching the thin steak between, get all my frustration out with a rolling pin. Some would use a meat tenderizer, but I find it puts holes in my Gladwrap. Bash to about half the thickness you started with – too thick and it will be tough, and too thin and the end result will just taste like breadcrumbs.
- Then simply coat each slice in seasoned flour, then an egg-wash, and finally breadcrumbs. For a nice finish (or if you’re just really angry), you can beat the breaded schnitzel briefly again before frying it. Then pan-fry until golden in a well-coated pan – this will only take a minute or less on each side. I like to serve simply – with a sprig of fresh thyme, lemon and pepper.
- Schnitzels can easily be prepared ahead to two different points – you can crumb them and then freeze raw (with cling-film between slices) for later cooking, or, you can pan-fry and set aside, then place in a fairly warm oven for about 5 minutes or so to warm later – because the meat is already quite a dry cut, you don’t lose too much moisture doing this.
- Chicken or Turkey schnitzel (breast meat is best) can be prepared a little thicker, as the meat is already quite tender. Schnitzel is also known as cotoletta Milanese (veal), can be made with variation to become chicken or veal parmiagana, and there are other un-crumbed versions such as veal escalope, scallopine and veal saltimbocca.