Friday, April 27, 2012

Kids Make Wiener Schnitzel

It takes a tough kid to make a tender schnitzel
By Ed Bruske
aka The Slow Cook

Our food appreciation classes have landed in Austria on their virtual world culinary tour and we went straight for a classic dish: Wiener schnitzel. That means veal cutlet in the Viennese style, traditionally pounded thin with a mallet, then dredged in bread crumbs and fried.
Many people object to veal--the meat of a male beef calf--because of the way it is raised. Too often the calves are confined to small crates, prevented from moving to keep their flesh tender. They may be deprived of iron to keep the meat pale.

Veal is a natural consequence of the dairy industry. Cows must give birth in order to produce milk and half the calves they bear are males, which do no good in the dairy barn. Despite the controversy surrounding veal, we don't want to shiled our kids from the issues, but rather teach them how to make better choices without eliminating entire chapters from the culinary lexicon. So we bought our veal from Whole Foods, which assures customers that its veal calves are raised on pasture, where they can romp with other cows.

But if you still have a problem with veal, you can substitute chicken breast in this recipe. (I don't know of a vegetarian option.)

Figure 1 pound of veal cutlets for four to six persons. First you'll need to make some bread crumbs. Two thick slices from a country-style loaf should do. Tear the white part from the crust in small pieces and bake these in a 350-degree oven until they are completely dry and show the first signs of browning around the edges. When they've cooled, you can chop them fine, or run them through a food processor.

Next, use a tenderizing mallet or another heavy object such as a rolling pin to pound the veal cutlets thin. They will of course grow wider and longer as they get thinner. For our classes, we placed the cutlets between sheets of plastic wrap to keep our mallet clean.
Schnitzel with red cabbage and Caesar salad
To fry the cutlets, you'll want a large, heavy skillet filled with cooking oil to a depth of about 1/8 inch. Nearby, make a dredging assembly line. We used three aluminum pans for this, one containing about 1 cup all-purpose flour seasoned with salt, the second containing 2 eggs beaten with a bit of water, and the third containing our bread crumbs. Heat the skillet over moderately high heat until the oil is hot and shimmering, then dredge one of your cutlets first in the flour, then in the egg mix, then in the bread crumbs. Lower the cutlet into the oil and fry until golden on both sides. You'll probably want to fry two cutlets at a time. Drain them on paper towels and hold in a warm oven before serving.

We used our portable butane burner for this so that we could set up the entire dredging and cooking operation on our prep table in front of the kids. In smaller groups, the older kids can take charge of the dredging and frying, but they must be very careful around the hot oil.

You can serve the finished schnitzel with almost any kind of side dish: french fries, braised cabbage, spaetzle. Use your imagination, but by all means include a wedge of lemon. Our kids could not get enough.

1 comment:

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