Wiener schnitzel with veal or pork schnitzel – one recipe, two choices.
A recipe I remember from my childhood, Weiner Schnitzel or veal schnitzel was always a treat. My mother ALWAYS used veal and made her own breadcrumbs. An authentic Wiener schnitzel. Part of the reason I loved the dish was because I always got to help in the mysterious process of crumbing the meat. The steak box from Lake District Farmers which I’ve been reviewing contains both veal and pork escalopes, a great opportunity to revisit classic dishes I enjoy – I learnt how to make schnitzel with pork when I was a student on a tight budget and if you’ve tried yourself, you’ll probably agree that it’s just as nice as the traditional veal schnitzel. In addition to schnitzel, I’ve made a veal saltimbocca – veal escalope with sage and prosciutto– one of my favourite ‘quick’ suppers – and in my view an excellent date night meal. Last year’s Valentine’s menu was based around a saltimbocca. Once you’ve prepped the meat, it cooks in a few minutes – and although it’s a rich dish, it’s not heavy. But, it was schnitzel that I became obsessed with this time – I’ve made it three times in the last month – once with veal and twice with pork. And it’s tasted every bit as good each time.
Weiner Schnitzel itself has to be made from veal (by law in both Austria and Germany). The word Weiner, of course, means ‘from Vienna’ and it’s very much an Austrian speciality. It was first mentioned in the 19th century and is said to have been brought to Austria from Italy by Josephy Radetzky von Radetz and then popularised by the Austrian emperor Franz Joseph I. Whether there’s any truth to that story is hard to say, but today it’s still very popular and is one of the national dishes of Austria. Using a pork substitute is common though, not only is it a cheaper option but it’s also very tasty. It also avoids any controversy about veal husbandry, which has a somewhat tarnished reputation.
At some point in the 1980s, the ethics of veal farming was widely publicised in the UK. Veal is generally produced from male dairy calves that would otherwise be shot at birth and as such there are arguments for and against the rearing of veal calves which are generally slaughtered between 6 and 8 months. But some of the cruellest practises, such as the use of veal crates which literally imprisoned calves so that they couldn’t move and develop muscle has been illegal in the UK and Europe since 2007. You can still find ‘white veal’ imports from Europe though, produced from calves that are kept in closed barns with slatted floors, with no bedding. They are fed a diet of fortified milk and solids with little or no fibre and with low iron. Here in the UK calves have a better quality of life with more space, bedding and a diet that includes more fibrous food. There’s a growing market for high welfare rosé veal which is meat from calves slaughtered when they are between eight and 12 months old, is usually called ‘rosé’ veal. Calves reared for rosé veal are generally fed a more normal diet without restriction of iron intake. The veal supplied by Lake District Farmers was milk-fed and a deep rose colour, a good indication that the calves had been raised ethically. I wouldn’t expect anything less from an organisation that prides itself on sourcing the very best produce.
The recipe for Wiener Schnitzel or pork schnitzel only differs depending on what meat you choose. In both cases, you may need to beat out your meat to make it the right thickness before you start. Ideally, you are looking for something between a quarter and an eighth of a centimetre thick. To beat the meat out, lay it between two slices of greaseproof paper or clingfilm and beat with the thick end of a wooden rolling pin. The aim is to make sure the meat will cook quickly so that you don’t have to overcook the breadcrumb casing. I sometimes cut the resulting large pieces of meat in half simply because they are easier to coat that way.
Lake District Farmers supplied escalopes of veal and pork that, as you can see from the veal escalope picture above, needed very little beating out if any at all. The pork escalope, in the image below, was also quite fine enough not to need any heavy-duty bashing!
Once you’ve got your meat to the right thickness, prepare the coating stations. You’ll three shallow bowls or plates with a deep lip. Put a tablespoon of flour into one and season well with salt and pepper. The second bowl should have a tablespoon of breadcrumbs. I cheated and used shop-bought crumbs because right now I am eating a lot of sourdough bread and I don’t think that makes a good fine coating crumb. I didn’t use panko crumbs which are larger and flakier but may try next time. Into the third bowl put an egg and beat it lightly with a fork to break the yolk.
Dip the escalopes first in the seasoned flour and then in the egg. This is the kind of process that is really great fun if you are under 10 years old. Actually, I’m not sure I am any neater than I was at that age!
And finally in the breadcrumbs, pressing down to help them stick to the egg mixture.
Now, prepare your fat for frying. I used a mixture of sunflower seed oil and butter because – well, who doesn’t like the taste of butter! Pure butter will brown and make your escalope bitter, but if you add a couple of teaspoons to a deep frying pan of oil, you’ll have all the taste and none of the hassle. Don’t try to be super posh by using olive oil. It has a lower smoke point making it harder to get a golden crumb coating and the flavour will overwhelm your delicate schnitzel. Lard would be an authentic option but personally, I find the taste too strong. You need about a centimetre depth of oil in the pan so that the schnitzels can be immersed without deep frying
Heat the oil so that a small cube of bread dropped in sizzles nicely turns golden brown. Add the schnitzels, if necessary one or two at a time so that you’ve got space to turn them. Baste them as they cook on one side for a minute, then flip them over. If you’ve got a beautiful brown crumb that’s puffed up slightly you won’t need to turn them again, just keep cooking for a further minute. Take the schnitzels out of the pan and drain on kitchen paper. If necessary you can keep them warm in a preheated oven for 10 minutes or so.
Whether you are making pork schnitzel or Weiner Schnitzel, I think the best accompaniments are simple. A light green salad or perhaps some buttered greens. Some new potatoes, boiled and garnished with fresh parsley or crushed with a little butter. And, a lemon wedge or two to squeeze over your pork or veal schnitzel and cut through all that lovely buttery crumb. That’s all you need. If you want a sauce (and I generally don’t bother), then fresh mayo would be perfect.
Here’s a printable recipe to use if you’d like to try this at home yourself
How to make a classic schnitzel with pork or veal
- 225 g pork or veal escalope
- 1 tbsp flour
- 1-2 tbsp breadcrumbs
- 200 ml sunflower oil or another neutral frying oil
- 2 tsp butter
- salt and pepper
- lemon wedges to serve
Beat out the escalopes to a maximum of 1/4cm thickness. If necessary cut in half to make manageable escalopes
Season the flour with salt and pepper and put in a shallow bowl.
Beat the egg and put in a shallow bowl
Put the breadcrumbs in a shallow bowl
Coat the escalopes in flour on both sides
Dip them in the egg mixture on both sides
Coat them with breadcrumbs, pressing down lightly to help the crumbs stick
Heat the oil in a deep frying pan so that a small piece of bread sizzles and browns quickly
Add the butter
Add the escalopes to the pan, in batches if necessary and cook for around minute on one side,gently basting the escalopes as you do so.
Turn and cook on the second side for a minute
Remove from the pan and drain on kitchen roll while you cook the remaining escalopes
If necessary keep warm in the oven for up to 10 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges to garnish and squeeze over
What do you think? For me, this is a special treat, even though it’s relatively healthy and especially made with pork, a frugal option.
This is just one of a series of recipes using the Lake District Farmers‘ Steak Box I was gifted and which retails for £85. The box includes four lamb leg steaks which I’ve used to make a delicious Italian style grilled lamb steak with lentils, beef sirloin, bavette, rump steak which I cooked with blue cheese and pickled walnuts), veal escalopes, venison haunch steak, pork escalopes and pork loin steaks. The meat all comes in vacuum packs so you can easily freeze it at home if you can’t eat it straight away.