Austrian Cuisine — Wiener Schnitzel

Austrian cuisine takes most of its current shape from the royal tables of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, which included parts of modern-day Austria, Hungary, Poland, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Italy, Montenegro, Romania, and Ukraine.  It was kind of a big deal.

Austria quick facts:

  • Capital: Vienna
  • Population: 8,414,638 (2011 estimate)
  • Notable Austrians: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Sigmund Freud, Rainier Wolfcastle

While most of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire’s territorial gains have left behind bits and pieces of themselves in Austrian culture and cuisine, most of the dishes popular in Austria today can trace their origins to either a Hungarian or German influence.  Goulash, for example, has clear Hungarian inspiration.  Wiener Schnitzel (recipe follows), on the other hand, owes its inspiration to the countless varieties of breaded, fried cutlets known as schnitzels in Germany.

Wiener schnitzel

SERVES 4 REGULAR PEOPLE OR ONE CHRIS CALDWELL

  • 1/2 pound veal cut for scallopini
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs
  • canola oil for frying

As always, when breading and frying the first step is to prepare a breading station with all the ingredients ready to go:

breadingstation

…and to put the frying oil on the stove to heat up.  Here, we used about a half an inch of canola oil over medium heat:

oilready

Our hope was that the oil would be plenty hot by the time the schnitzels were ready to be fried.  All set up, the first breading step was to dredge the salted and peppered veal in flour, shaking off any excess:

vealfloured

Each piece was then quickly dipped in the beaten eggs, held above the egg mixture briefly to allow any excess to run off, and gently coated with bread crumbs:

vealbreaded

Probably the only key in our research to a quality Wiener scnitzel (aside from obvious things like “don’t burn them”) is to be sure to be very gentle when applying the breadcrumbs.  The finished schnitzel should have a coating that fully encases the meat inside without being stuck to the meat, creating a puffy texture.  If the breadcrumbs are firmly pressed into the meat this will not occur.

Our schnitzels breaded, they were ready for some hot oil action.  We did two to three at a time to not overcrowd the pan:

vealtopan

In about a minute (or less) the bottoms were browned and the schitzels were ready to be turned:

vealturned

After another less-than-a-minute the veal was ready to be removed to paper towels to drain while the next batch was fried:

schnitzeldraining

Traditionally, a Wiener schnitzel need only be served with a lemon wedge, but we felt that a sprig of parsley added a touch of class:

schnitzelplated

Once everything was set up (which itself took very little time since the veal was already cut), our Wiener schnitzels took less than ten minutes to be ready to serve.  We managed to achieve the trademark puffy texture of the crust thanks to some careful breading, evidenced by the rippled exterior surface of the finished schnitzel, and the result was delicious.  If we could eat schnitzels every day with no ill effects, we would certainly consider it.

More from our Austrian meal:

Gekochter Erdapfelsalat

Veltliner wine and Manner wafers

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