If a man cannot or will not cook, he is not a man. All REAL men – manly men, if you will – know how to cook, and by cook I don’t mean scurry around a studio kitchen yelling “BAM!” and cooking stuff most ordinary chefs don’t cook, like that wretched little Emeril does on his stupid Food Network show. Honestly…what kind of serious chef has his own studio band, complete with an African-American Doc Severinsen? I learned to cook because my mother – God rest her soul – was a superb cook. When I moved out and lived on my own, I had no choice but to teach myself the arcane ways of the kitchen. And now I happily pass what I have learned along to you, gentle reader.
Without question or doubt, Wienerschnitzel (Vienna Cutlet) is the signature dish of Austria – rather surprising, given the fact that it is nothing more than breaded veal cutlet fried in bacon fat. Ah, but it’s the simplicity of the dish that makes it both appealing and challenging, because your success will depend on the quality of the ingredients and the precision of the frying: you have to watch your Wienerschnitzel very carefully. I burned my Wienerschnitzel a few years ago and it was not a pleasant experience. Also, it’s important to cook only what you plan to consume at supper, as this is not an item that reheats well.
Note that traditionally, Wienerschnitzel is fried in bacon fat, making it a taboo item for NY Mayor Bloomberg and his fellow Nutrition Nazis. Too bad for them: if the fat is hot enough when the cutlets are fried, very little of it makes its way into the breadcrumb coating. The trick is make sure there is a LOT of fat surrounding the cutlet so that it cooks evenly. Contrary to what you might think, the cutlets will be far more greasy if you try to cook them in just a little fat. Also, it’s important that the cutlets don’t rest on the hot bottom of the pan, as this will cause them to over-brown.
8 decent-sized veal cutlets, at least 5 oz. each
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly grated black pepper
1 cup plain bread crumbs
4 eggs, well beaten with 1 tbsp water added
1 lb. lard
2 lemons, cut lengthwise in quarters
Add the salt and pepper to the flour in a wide, shallow bowl and mix thoroughly. Set up two more bowls with the bread crumbs and the beaten egg.
Using a meat hammer, pound each cutlet to a thickness of about 1/4″ between two sheets of plastic wrap. Working one at a time, dredge each cutlet in flour, dip in the egg to coat and then quickly roll in the breadcrumbs until coated. Shake gently to allow excess breadcrumbs to fall off. Place cutlet on a cookie sheet and repeat until all the cutlets have been breaded.
Place a large (12″ at least) skillet on medium heat and add the lard. When the temperature of the fat reaches 350 degrees F, reduce the heat to medium-high and place 2 or 4 cutlets into the fat. Allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes, at which point the breading should be a light golden brown. Gently nudge the cutlets with a spatula or tongs to make sure they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
Turn the cutlets over and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes and then transfer to a cake cooling rack and immediately sprinkle with a little kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Repeat until all the cutlets have been cooked.
Place two cutlets on each plate along with a couple of lemon wedges, a generous helping of German-style potato salad and cucumber salad (see recipes below). Serve with a semi-dry Riesling.
Essen, trinken und fröhlich sein!
German-style Potato Salad
Prepare this dish about an hour before you plan to cook your Wienerschnitzel.
2-½ lb. red potatoes, about 6 medium spuds
8 slices of bacon, diced
1 cup onion, diced
2 tbsp all purpose flour
2 tbsp honey
½ tsp each kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 tsp celery seed
1 cup water
½ cup white vinegar
½ cup sweet white wine (Liebfraumilch, Muscatel, Sauterne, etc.)
2 tbsp chives, chopped (for garnish)
Boil potatoes in their skins until just done (about 20 minutes). Drain, peel and cube the potatoes, reserving them in a large salad bowl.
In a large skillet on medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp, remove from pan and set aside. Add onions to the bacon drippings and saute until soft and just beginning to brown.
Sprinkle the flour over the onions and stir to form a roux. Cook for 1 minute, then add the honey, salt, pepper and celery seed. Deglaze with the wine and bring to boil while whisking bottom of pan. Add water and vinegar and continue whisking until the sauce comes to the boil again. Cook for another 2 minutes and then adjust seasoning to taste. Remove from heat.
Crumble the bacon and sprinkle over the potatoes. Pour the hot sauce over the potatoes and fold the ingredients together gently to avoid breaking up the potatoes. Serve with a sprinkling of chives on top.
Prepare this just before cooking your Wienerschnitzel.
2 large cucumbers
1 small red onion
¼ cup cider vinegar
¼ cup sweet white wine (Liebfraumilch, Muscatel, Sauterne, etc.)
¼ tsp each salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
Peel the cucumbers, slice thin (no more than an eighth-inch thick) and then place in a large salad bowl. Peel the onion, cut in half lengthwise and slice very thinly to create “half-rings.” Add to the salad bowl.
In a large measuring cup add the vinegar, wine, salt, pepper and dill. Whisk and then pour into the salad bowl. Toss the ingredients and then let macerate until ready to serve.