From Too Many Chefs - www.toomanychefs.com

March 31, 2006
Ist das nicht ein Wiener schnitzel?

schnitzel.jpgWhy, yes, it IS a Wiener schnitzel. When I lived in Munich I ate a lot of schnitzels. Veal (wiener), pork (schwein), you name it. I was a lot less adventurous culinarily speaking and in my memory the only three things that were ever on the menu were schnitzel, schweinshaxe and leberkaese. The last two in that list were a little too much for me - knuckles, and a strange rubbery meat-like substance that was a lot like very hot bologna cut about a half an inch thick. So I ate a lot of schnitzel.

I got tired of it eventually, but for a long time it was my favourite dish. Rich and crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, it was always a reliable choice. It didn't have bones in odd places or hide rubbery fat under a thick sauce. The accompaniments were simple but necessary: a wedge of lemon and a fried egg glistening with a wobbly deep yellow yolk. The lemon cut through the buttery flavour of the crust, which in turn absorbed the thick tasty yolk.

Like many simple dishes, this one relies on impeccable ingredients and perfect timing. The veal cutlet needs to be flattened to a thin slice so that it will cook quickly and remain tender. The cutlet needs to be flipped at exactly the right moment so that you have a nice crispy exterior, not soggy but not burned. You need copious amounts of fresh unsalted butter. And a nice lemon and a fresh organic egg. That's all really. But you have to get every element right or it's just a blah dish, nothing special.

Wiener Schnitzel (serves 2)

The classic Wiener schnitzel is always made with tender veal. If it's made with turkey or pork, you have to say so in the title: Pork Wiener Schnitzel, for example. The good news is that it can easily be made in 15 minutes. It was my plan B for the IMBB: Make it in 30 minutes challenge because it looks classy and yet really is very quick and simple to make.

2 veal cutlets
1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup bread crumbs
salt
pepper
a lemon wedge
3 eggs, separated (one beaten)
a lot of unsalted butter

Pound the veal cutlets until they are uniformly thin, about a quarter of an inch thick. Dredge them in flour (mixed with a little salt and pepper) and then the beaten egg. Roll them in the bread crumbs until well coated. Melt a few tablespoons of butter in a frying pan. When the butter begins to froth, lay the cutlets in the pan. Keep the heat fairly high, but not high enough to burn the butter. You can add a little olive oil to the butter if you want to play safe; this keeps the butter from burning but you don't want too much as it will add the wrong flavour to the dish. Once a nice brown crust has formed on the cutlets (about five minutes) add another couple tablespooons of butter. Let it melt and then flip the cutlets, moving them around a bit and lifting them, if necessary to get the butter under them.

The breadcrumbs absorb butter like nobody's business: be generous with the butter if the pan looks dry.

When they are cooked through and crusty all over, remove to a warm plate. Crack the two eggs in the pan with the remaing butter. Cook until the eggs are just set but the yolks are still liquid. Slide an egg onto each schnitzel and serve with a wedge of lemon.

Posted by Meg in Sussex at March 31, 2006 1:14 PM
Comments

Meg and I discussed this in e-mail, but does anyone know where that "Ist das nicht ein Wiener schnitzel? Ja! das ist ein Wiener schnitzel?" thing comes from?

It's driving us both a little batty.

Posted by barrett on March 31, 2006 at 4:06 PM

Hi Meg - the first time I went to Austria I ordered Weiner Schnitzel and was dumfounded when a breaded, pounded veal cutlet arrived. What a ding dong. I was expecting a hot dog! I mean, why in the world name a hot dog chain after a completely unrelated food dish?

Posted by Elise on March 31, 2006 at 4:59 PM

That is one of Zak's favorite dishes in the world, ever.

I only make it for him about once a year, in large part because I am not fond of veal. (I think it is kind of bland) But, also because for years I wouldn't eat veal because of how it was raised.

Now that I get veal from my farmer friends who raise it ethically, and whose veal tastes nice, I don't really have that excuse, but I still only make it once a year or so.

Otherwise, it would no longer be special.

But he is weird--he doesn't eat it with the egg on top.

Posted by Barbara on April 1, 2006 at 3:43 PM

Are you sure that nicht ist something that the two of you came up with while drunk in college? I've never heard of that exchange, nor have the three people I just asked (including my German roommate, in case it was something Meg picked up in Munich), and the only hits on Google are for this recipe and a Technorati link to it.

Posted by Sweth on April 4, 2006 at 11:34 AM

By the way, Meg--I always thought that schnitzel was always implicitly pork, and the Wiener meant "Viennese-style", i.e. pounded flat and breaded, vs. other styles like jaegerschnitzel (w/ mushroom gravy), and schnitzels from pork were just "von schwine". I had also heard of the "w/ fried egg" version as "Hamburger schnitzel", but my German roommate says that every region has a different name for the combinations of toppings; her favorite is one with ham, cheese, and fried egg, which sounds wonderful but makes me wonder how Germans aren't as obese as Americans...

Posted by Sweth on April 4, 2006 at 11:56 AM

Hmm... it just occured to me to also Google for the spelling used by the old hot dog restaurant (Wienerschnitzel, sans space), and sure enough, there's one other hit, from two people using the exchange on a mailing list for fans of the Groo the Wanderer cartoon. So apparently it isn't just a drunken college memory.

(And by "schwine" I meant "schwein".)

(I promise this will be my last post on this topic.)

Posted by Sweth on April 4, 2006 at 11:58 AM

Sweth, I can mentally see the exchange in a black and white film with 20-30's movie music. I'd guess it was Laurel and Hardy or Little Rascals or something like that.

Marx Brothers? Ritz Brothers? Someone out there will know.

Posted by barrett on April 4, 2006 at 12:25 PM

I have to admit I thought it was a vaudeville sketch. I wouldn't go to a German to ask about it. If they were around, I would ask my grandparents. My father might remember on a good day, but his hearing's not so great so it will have to wait for my next visit to Chicago.

As for the egg issue - I saw it frequently in Munich and in Austria with the egg. In my experience, if it says Wiener schnitzel it will be veal and if it says schwein schnitzel, then it's pork.

But that said, some claim it's a Northern Italy speciality: goes to show that it's one of those basic dishes that is found in a large region, with regional touches and a lot of places claiming the "real" one.

Posted by Meg in Paris on April 4, 2006 at 2:50 PM

I checked Wikipedia and this is what they said about the schnitzel denomination (though mind you it refers to Austria, and not it's pork-loving Bavarian neighbors to the North):

Many restaurants offer cheaper schnitzels made from pork, and variants made of turkey have become popular more recently, but Austrian restaurant regulations require that "vom Schwein" (made of pork) or "von der Pute" (made of turkey) be indicated on the menu if no veal is used.

Posted by Meg on April 7, 2006 at 7:17 AM

That phrase you're looking for -- I know it as "Ist dass nicht ein Schnitzelbank? Ja, dass ist..."

Further research is left as an exercise for the reader, as what I'm SUPPOSED to be doing online is finding a Kaseschnitzel recipe for dinner. (In particular: a Kaseschnitzel recipe that involves the cheese inside the breading, in a thin layer next to the meat. That's how they made it at the restaurant in Munich we frequented.)

Posted by Kate Y. on April 8, 2006 at 7:51 PM

I had time to dig further about der Schnitzelbank while dinner cooked. This thread on a forum about folksongs has interesting information buried in its tangle: http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=34802#471598

and see the article near the very end of http://www.germansociety-md.com/june2003.htm.

Tonight we sandwiched the cheese between two thin layers of pork... tasty... not quite right. Maybe I should just forge ahead and try to flour/egg/batter an "open-face" version of that sandwich, but I can't quite believe it will work, structurally. Not unless there's one single sheet of cheese the size of the schnitzel. Puzzlement.

Posted by Kate Y. on April 9, 2006 at 12:32 AM

Isn't the jingle crom the schnitzelbank song?

Posted by Tom on January 15, 2007 at 4:17 PM

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