|Radetzky, maybe responsible for Schnitzel.|
Veal has typically been a somewhat expensive meat, and one with equal amounts of cachet and controversy. I won't touch on that here, because that's not my purview; the point is, however, that nowadays it's common to find schnitzel made from pork and chicken alongside the traditional veal. For many Jews in Europe during the Victorian era, veal was an unattainable luxury, something eaten very rarely, and so chicken schnitzel became a popular replacement. My grandmother, a Viennese woman, made chicken schnitzel often when I was a child.
Schnitzel is a dish that begs for a sauce. Traditionally, it is served with nothing more than a wedge of lemon (and this is how my mother eats it to this day,) but I crave more moisture and flavor on my plate. For this presentation, I will use a German sauce called Zigeunersauce, which is a sauce made with bell peppers, mushrooms, paprika, and tomatoes. (Thanks to a commenter for prompting me to add this:) Zigeuner is a German word referring to the Romani. I'm not certain if this sauce originated with the Romani people, if it is merely named after them for its colorful look, or if it is so called as a nod to its Eastern European origins (where the Romani clearly came from, or settled, or belonged—depending on who you asked in the Victorian era.) I'm going to make my version of Zigeunersauce a little more refined than the traditional version, with smaller cut items, but otherwise will stick to the recipes that I've found.
|The finished plate—braised red cabbage, Chicken Schnitzel, and Zigeunersauce|
(Please, to any of my German readers, if you have a different recipe than me, feel free to post it in the comments. Hopefully what I've found approximates what you know. I wish I'd been able to get the recipes from my grandmother when she was still alive.)
|Frying the Schnitzel|
Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts
Butter or Oil
1. Trim fat and any remaining tendons/gristle from chicken, and then portion each breast into two equal pieces by cutting. For the purposes of this meal, each person will get one piece. Normally, however, you could serve two or even three pieces. The purpose of this step is to cut them down to a more manageable size, as a full chicken breast sometimes becomes difficult to work with after the next step...
2. Take a meat mallet and, using a flat side, flatten the chicken breast pieces out until they are about 1/4 inch (6-7 mm) thick.
3. Arrange a three-step breading setup before you: On a plate or in a shallow bowl, combine flour with some salt and pepper; the second step is egg with a little splash of milk, beaten to combine well; step three is breadcrumbs, once again seasoned with salt, pepper, and your choice of herbs and spices. For Hanukkah dinner, I used some fresh thyme.
4. Bread your chicken breasts: First, dredge in the flour to coat well. Second, place in the egg and coat well, but do not rub off the flour. Third, coat evenly with breadcrumbs. Place on a pan/platter, and repeat until all breast pieces are breaded. Do not let the pieces touch on the pan, they will want to stick together.
5. Heat your butter or oil in a sauté pan, and cook the chicken until it's golden brown on both sides. Test with one piece and see if it cooks to doneness in the middle during the time in the pan. If it does, excellent. If not, place your browned chicken on a sheet pan and bake in the oven at 350°F/180°C/Gas 4 for a couple minutes until cooked through. This shouldn't be necessary if the chicken is thin enough.
6. Place on a plate for service, and top with the sauce of your choice. Schnitzel, in my opinion, tends to be very dry (due to the breading) and needs a sauce, preferably something creamy. For Hanukkah, we've chosen to go with the following recipe.
2 tablespoons (30 ml) clarified butter
1 cup (240 ml) onion, small dice
2 cups (473 ml) mushrooms, sliced
3 cups (710 ml) bell peppers—red, orange, yellow; small dice
1 teaspoon (5 ml/2 cloves) garlic paste
1 ½ tablespoons (23 ml) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons (10 ml) Sweet Hungarian Paprika, ground
2 teaspoons (10 ml) Hot Hungarian Paprika, ground
2 tablespoons (30 ml) tomato paste
14 ounces (420 ml) chicken stock
2 teaspoons (10 ml) honey
1 lemon, juiced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Heat butter in pan, and sauté onion until it begins to become translucent. Add mushrooms and cook until they are soft and release their liquid.
2. Add bell pepper slices and garlic, and cook 1-2 minutes longer.
3. Sprinkle ground paprika and flour over vegetables and cook for 1-2 minutes. (You are essentially making a roux here, just by another process.)
4. Add the chicken stock, and stir well. Once the flour and stock have fully combined, add the tomato paste.
5. Let mixture cook gently for about 20 minutes. (Important to cook out any residual starchy flavor from the roux.)
6. Season to taste with honey, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.