I can only think of two occasions when I’ve eaten schnitzel in restaurants, but both were memorable. I’ll also admit that the first time I tried it I wasn’t overly impressed – it seemed a little heavy and not overly flavorful, but Mike won major points by ordering it in a restaurant on an early date just so I could try it, even though it was August and he probably would have preferred something else.
Not an especially auspicious beginning, but fast forward several years to our trip to Vienna last spring. Our Austrian friends confidently recommended dinner at Figlmüeller a restaurant famous for their schnitzel, and I figured there was no better time to try it again than in the heart of schnitzel territory. The schnitzel was in a word: glorious. Deeply flavorful, about the size of a medium thin-crust pizza, and perfectly accompanied by fresh lemons and a glass of gewürztraminer – the experience rekindled my interest in German food.
Brief nerdy side-note: wienerschnitzel is a protected term and means specifically schnitzel made with veal. The word schnitzel is broader and encompasses both pork and veal. Similar to say, Champagne vs. sparkling wine.
Crispy Pork Schnitzel (serves 4)
4 (4-6 ounce) boneless pork loin chops
1 1/2 cups plain dry breadcrumbs
1 large egg
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon water
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
1 lemon, cut in wedges
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
ground black pepper
Trim the boneless pork loin chops of any fat before placing them between two large sheets of plastic wrap. Use a rolling pin or the flat side of a meat mallet to pound each piece until it’s about 1/4 inch thick. Generously sprinkle both sides of the pork with salt and pepper.
Measure out the flour and breadcrumbs onto two large plates. On a third large plate, carefully beat together the egg and water to create an egg wash. Dredge each piece of pork in the flour, followed by the egg wash and lastly the breadcrumbs. Gently press the breadcrumbs to help them adhere to the egg wash.
Place the breaded pork on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and rest in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes. This step will help the breadcrumbs to adhere and prevent them from falling off during the frying process. It also gives you a few minutes to clean up and start heating the oil – multi-tasking!
Next, pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees F. Heat the olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Carefully place two pieces of breaded pork in the hot oil at a time. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown and crispy. Remove the cooked schnitzel to another parchment lined baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while the second batch sautés.
Drain the cooked schnitzel on a paper towel briefly and serve immediately with lemon wedges and a sprinkle of parsley.
Small Kitchen Friendly?
Fairly, assuming you have enough large plates. I used a rolling pin to flatten the pork loin chops, three dinner plates, two baking sheets, one medium sauté pan, a small cutting board, a chef’s knife, metal spatula, and both dry and liquid measuring cups and spoons. An instant read meat thermometer offers peace of mind.
The secret weapon of this recipe: clear plastic wrap. It turns your counter into another plate and prevents contaminating a clean. Second runner up: parchment paper. Makes clean up easy and helps keep the breading crispy in the oven.
Mike and I both have German/Austrian blood, respectively, running in our veins, so maybe that’s why we liked this so much? But really, who doesn’t like tender meat in a crispy coating lightly dressed with lemon juice? Schnitzel is perfect with a simple arugula salad, and extra bonus: a short cooking time coupled with a breading process than can easily be done ahead of time means dinner can be on the table in well under an hour. Works for me!