“A schnitzel is a thin slice of meat. The meat is usually thinned by pounding with a meat tenderizer. Most commonly, the meat is breaded before frying…” - Wikipedia
Sounds simple, right? And it is. But not all schnitzel is equal. I don’t think I’ve ever had schnitzel that is outright bad, but I’ve certainly had schnitzel that’s much better than others.
Jim lived in Germany for awhile during his college years and feasted on schnitzel often. It was a favorite when he lived there. After returning to the U.S. and trying it at several restaurants around the country, he came to the conclusion that German schnitzel ruined it for him everywhere else. Until I ran across a New York Times recipe for schnitzel that sounded good.
I’ve been making it for years and no longer need to look at the recipe. In fact, I can’t lay my hands on it, so I can’t even tell you who wrote the original recipe. I’ve made several modifications to it, but the key ingredients are, for the most part, included in the original recipe.
I'm not quite sure what kicks this recipe up a notch. Maybe it's the mustard added to the egg wash. Maybe it's the parmesan cheese added to the breading. Maybe it's whole wheat panko instead of regular bread crumbs. It's probably a combination of these ingredients not found in traditional schnitzel.
Pork schnitzel with a simple salad
This is a terrific recipe. It’s fast and easy (I can get this on the table in half an hour). It’s inexpensive (after making it with more expensive cuts of pork from Central Market, we found that we prefer it when made with inexpensive thin pork chops from H-E-B). And it’s just so, so good. The recipe that follows serves 2, but you can scale it up if need be.
For the schnitzel
2 thin pork chops, bone-in
3 or 4 tablespoons of olive oil*
⅓ cup or more of peanut oil*
3 or 4 tablespoons of butter*
A heaping tablespoon of mustard
2 or 3 large pinches of oregano
1 ½ cups of whole wheat panko**
⅓ cup of grated Parmesan cheese**
2 lemon wedges
Salt and pepper to taste
* The amount of oil and butter you use will depend on the size of the skillet. You won’t be deep-frying the meat, but you want enough oil / butter so that the chops are ‘almost’ submerged.
** Don't hesitate to increase these amounts. I find it easier to bread the chops if I've got a lot of breading to work with. And it doesn't go to waste. I put any extra in a plastic bag and stick it in the fridge for use the next time I make it.
For the salad dressing
⅓ cup Balsamic vinegar
⅔ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons of water
2 teaspoons of lime juice
3 grinds of salt
5 grinds of pepper
1 pinch of oregano
For the salad
4 ounces of baby spinach
10 or 12 small tomatoes (like cherry, angel, or champagne), halved
¼ to ⅓ cup sliced or diced onions
¼ cup sliced or diced red bell pepper
Crumbled feta cheese to taste*
*Don't cut corners on the feta cheese! Good quality feta packed in water is so much better than prepackaged name brand feta. It makes a big difference. Valbreso feta is one of my favorites (available at Central Market).
I start by preparing the salad, but not dressing it yet.
Combine the spinach, tomatoes, onions, and red pepper in a serving bowl, and toss.
Gently toss in the crumbled feta cheese and set aside.
If there’s no salad dressing on hand, try this recipe, making a cruet-full at a time (I bet you'll want to use it over and over again). Combine all the ingredients in a cruet and shake to blend. Then taste and adjust to your liking… you might prefer an extra teaspoon or two of vinegar or an extra squeeze of lime juice.
Then I do the schnitzel, as follows:
Place the pork chops between two pieces of wax or parchment paper, and, with a meat mallet, pound until they are very thin (I pound them to less than a quarter inch.
Heat the olive oil, peanut oil, and butter over low heat in a skillet large enough to hold the pork chops without overlapping.
Whisk the eggs, mustard, and oregano together in a wide shallow bowl.
Combine the panko, parmesan cheese and salt and pepper and spread out on a plate or in a wide shallow bowl.
Dip one of the chops into the egg mixture coating both sides. Then dip it into the panko mixture. Press as much panko as you can onto each side of the chop to get a thick breading (do not, however, ‘double dip’ each chop in the egg and panko mixtures). Repeat with the second chop.
Turn the heat up under the skillet to medium or a little higher. You’ll be ready to add the chops when a pinch of the panko mixture sizzles when dropped in.
Add the chops and fry for 3 to 4 minutes per side, until they are a deep golden brown.
Toss the salad with the dressing and plate the pork chops and the salad. Place a lemon wedge on each plate and squeeze lemon juice onto the pork chop before eating.
Jane Gennarelli is co-editor of LNF Weekly. She also edits the Lavaca & Friends weekly arts and entertainment newsletter.