It will come as a surprise to some. But strictly speaking, the Wiener Schnitzel (Schnitzel Vienna) is not a German dish.
“I knew that…,” many of you might say. “Wien or Vienna, is after, all the Capital City of Austria, so it must be Austrian!” Well, there seems to be an ongoing dispute on that very subject, and strictly speaking, today’s Wiener Schnitzel may actually stem from the Cotoletta Milanese and may go as far back as to the Romans of the 1th century BC. So the origins of the Wiener Schnitzel may actually be Italian.
The Cotoletta Milanese was usually a veal chop pounded and breaded and served with lemon. Today’s Wiener Schnitzel is traditionally a thin veal cut without bone.
Another legend states that the origin of the Schnitzel go back to the 7th century Byzantine Empire.
According to the legend, Emporer Basileios I (867-886AD) liked his meat coated with golddust. The wealthy soon began to copy this and the poor used breadcrumbs to at least achvieve the look of gold. Over the years, the use of bread crumbs in coating meat spread to neighboring lands.
Here are some more facts:
- “Wiener” means Viennese and in Austria and Germany, the term “Wiener Schnitzel” is protected by law and refers to a breaded and fried 4 mm thin and lightly hammered veal slice. So if you order a chicken Schnitzel in an Austrian restaurant by calling it a Wiener Chicken Schnitzel, you will be arrested on the spot by the Waiter by special authority vested in him or her by the Austrian Government. (I am kidding)
- If in a German Restaurant you order a “Schnitzel Wiener Art” – Schnitzel Vienna Style, it is usually a slice of pork, not veal – something to be aware of, if you want to order the real thing.
- When frying the Schnitzel large amounts of clarified butter and butter are used. It is fried at temperatures of around 160°C and should almost swim in clarified butter.
- Sometimes several frying pans are used to prepare several Schnitzel at the same time. Once fried, it should be served immediately.
- During the frying process the breading should slightly detach itself in a wavy souflée fashion without falling off the meat.
- Serving it with Lemon, Anchovies, and Capers is an influence of Northern Germany. At least the lemon has found its way back to Austria.
- Austrians seem to think Germans mutilate this classic by serving it with sauce. Not entirely true, and in fine cuisine this would be considered a major fauxpas. Serving or eating it with Ketchup is another offence that would be heavily frowned upon in Germany and Austria.
- In German the word Schnitzel is both Singular and Plural meaning when ordering, it is one Schnitzel and it is two Schnitzel (not Schnitzels).
While a Wiener Schnitzel is actually quite easy to make, there are a few tricks I will try to outline in the below text. I serve it with a cucumber potato salad.
Serves: 4 Difficulty: Easy Preparation time: 60 mins.
For the Austrian Potato Salad
- 600g (21 oz or 1.3 lbs) waxy potatoes
- 2 Cucumbers
- 100g (3.5 oz) Bacon Bits
- 2 Schalotts
- 50 g (1,7 oz or 2 TBS) Butter
- 50ml (1.7 fl oz) White Wine Vinegar
- 150 ml Chicken Bouillon (instant)
- 1 TBS Medium Spicey Mustard
- 30ml (1.1 fl. oz) Olive Oil
- freshly ground Salt and Pepper
- 20ml (0.7 fl oz) Pumpkin Seed Oil
- 50g (1.7 oz) Watercress
For the Schnitzel:
- 4 Escalopes of Veal ( à 160g – 200g) – ask your butcher to pound it flat
- Salt and White Pepper
- Paprika Powder
- 1 cup of flour
- 5 TBS of cream
- 2 Small Eggs
- 2 cups of fine bread crumbs
- 150g (5.3 oz) Clarified Butter
- 6 Capers
- 50g (1.7) Butter
- 4 Lemon Wedges
- 4 Anchovies
- 1 TBS Capers
Additionally you will need:
- Ceram Wrap
- one large (or several smaller) frying pan
Start with the potato salad as it will need to soak for a while in its vinaigrette.
Boil 600g (21 oz or 1.3 lbs) waxy potatoes with skin for about 20 minutes. Drain hot water and fill pot with cold water. Peel the skin and cut potatoes into 3 mm thin slices. Peel 2 Cucumbers and cut in halves lengthwise. With a tea spoon, scrap out the seeds. Cut the cucumbers into thin slices, season lightly with salt and set aside. Finely dice the shallots, cut the bacon bits into smaller bits if they are too large. Heat 50g (1,7 oz or 2 TBS) Butter in a frying pan. Add the bacon bits and fry until it begins to brown. Add unions and fry for 3 more minutes. Deglaze with 50ml (1.7 fl oz) White Wine Vinegar and 150 ml Chicken Bouillon (instant). Add 1 TBS Medium Spicy Mustard and let simmer for 3 Minutes on low heat. While stirring, slowly pour in 30ml (1.1 fl. oz) Olive Oil. Combine and sauté the warm vinaigrette and potatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Drain any liquid that may have accumulated in the bowl with cucumbers. Add Cucumbers and 20ml (0.7 fl oz) Pumpkin Seed Oil and chill for 1 – 2 hours.
Preparing the Wiener Schnitzel:
If your butcher was not able to flatten the veal cut for you it is easy to do this yourself: Place a sheet of Ceram wrap on a chopping board. Rinse and dry the meat and place one slice at a time onto the Ceram wrap. Cover with another layer of Ceram wrap. With the bottom of a small frying pan, beat the meat until you have the desired thickness of about 4 – 5 mm. Repeat with the other slices of meat. Season meat from both with white pepper, salt, and a pinch of paprika powder.
In a small bowl whisk the cream for a few minutes, add the eggs and whisk again until all is evenly combined.
Prepare 3 deep dishes: one with one cup of flour, one with the egg / cream mixture and the 3rd dish with 2 cups of fine bread crumbs
What follows is a bit complex, so read it first before you start to cook:
Heat 150 g of clarified butter and 50 g of Butter in a large frying pan. Take care that the fat does not get too hot. I use setting 50% of full heat. Once melted, place onto the back burner until ready to fry.
Preheat and oven to 90°C (190°F), place a layer of paper towels onto a baking sheet.
Turn one slice of veal in the flour until evenly covered, and shake of any access flour. Turn in the egg / cream mixture until evenly covered, followed by turning it in bread crumbs until evenly covered. Never press the breadcrumbs into the meat.
Set breaded meat aside. Repeat this with the other 3 pieces. By the time you have done your second slice of meat, but the frying pan back onto 3 /4 of full heat. (Depending on your stoves power setting you may need more or less heat. The frying grease should never be so hot that smoke develops.)
Finish breading as described and place all Schnitzel into your frying pan.
Tip: the Schnitzel needs to swim in fat. If your frying pan is too small, use 2 or even 3 if you have to. In that instance you need to increase your amount of fat. Never cramp the Schnitzel into a frying pan that is too small.
Carefully place the Schnitzel into the frying fat, add 6 capers. Move the pan back and forth, tilting it so hot grease can run over the topside of the Schnitzel, and/or ues a spoon to scoop hot grease over the meat. Once the underside is golden brown (usually 2-3 mins), turn the Schnitzel and repeat on the other side. Traditionally, the Schnitzel is only turned once. Take care not to let it turn too dark. Remove Schnitzel form pan and place onto paper towel and keep warm in the oven. (Don’t waste too much time now, the Schnitzel must be served as soon as possible now.)
Arrange the potato – cucumber salad on a plate. Sprinkle with fresh watercress. Place one Schnitzel next to it. Decorate with a thick lemon slice, one filet of Anchovies, some capers and a sprig of parsley per plate.