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Schnitzel

A GOOD BREADING MAKES ANY CUTLET MEMORABLE

Wiener schnitzel (considered the national dish of Austria) features thin, tender veal cutlets coated in ultrafine bread crumbs and then fried until puffy and golden brown. What separates schnitzel from ordinary breaded cutlets is the coating’s rumpled appearance. When properly cooked, the thin coating will puff up, leaving enough space to slide a knife between the meat and the crisp exterior. This wrinkled coating gives schnitzel an air of refinement and makes the pan-fried meat seem lighter than it really is.

Given the price of veal, many restaurants have switched to pork cutlets. Though the meat is cheaper, it’s no easier to get the breading right. At worst, the coating is soggy and greasy. Even if you avoid this pitfall, the breading invariably fuses with the meat and you lose the light quality the puffed coating should provide.

Don’t bother with packaged pork cutlets—they are sinewy and fatty. It takes 5 minutes to turn a tenderloin into cutlets. And this cut of pork is very tender and very mild—just like veal. As for the breading, the secret is to dry fresh sandwich bread quickly in a microwave (that’s right, a microwave) so that it can be ground into a fine powder.

There’s no mystery to applying the crumbs—the usual process of dusting the cutlets with flour and then dipping them in an egg wash works best. However, adding a little oil to the wash is essential. The oil keeps the breading from fusing to the meat so it can puff when the pot is shaken (and produce that wrinkled coating) during cooking. Yes, it turns out that some wrist action produces the wrinkled coating that defines this Old World classic.

WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS

Choice Cuts

Most pork schnitzel recipes call for boneless pork chops, pounded thin. However pork chops have very compact muscle fibers, which means that pounding thin cutlets is a chore. It also means that once cooked, the pork has a dry, mealy texture. Use pork tenderloin instead. Pounded thin and fried, cutlets from the tenderloin are remarkably tender with a mild flavor similar to veal.

Slice on the Bias

The only aspect of the tenderloin that isn’t ideal is its long, cylindrical shape, but that’s easily fixed. Cut the tenderloin in half at a 20-degree angle. Using the same angle, cut each half in half again, cutting the tapered tail pieces slightly thicker than the middle medallions. The pieces are now ready to pound into thin cutlets.

Precook the Crumbs

Using raw homemade bread crumbs can result in a pork cutlet that is overcooked before the crumbs are crisp. Additionally, the crust will have an overly coarse texture. We have an easy fix: Crisp the crumbs before you coat the cutlets. To do so, simply microwave cubes of bread on high power, then medium, and transfer to a food processor and grind. You’ll be rewarded with superfine, dry bread crumbs that will fry up extra-crisp.

Up the Oil and Use Arm Power

Most recipes for pan-frying typically call for ½ to 1 cup of oil. You will need 2 cups for this recipe, so put away your skillet and grab a Dutch oven. Shake the pan as the cutlets cook in the hot oil. The shaking sends the hot oil over the top of the cutlets, speeding up the setting process and enhancing the puff for perfect pork schnitzel. As the egg in the coating solidifies, it forms a barrier, which traps moisture on the surface of the pork, creating that puffed crust. You’ll know you’re on the right track when the crust resembles a rumpled shar-pei.

An unusual frying method creates a puffy, well-browned exterior on these oversized cutlets.

schnitzel

Pork Schnitzel

SERVES 4

RECIPE DETAILS

Timeline

  • 20 minutes to prepare hard-cooked egg (prepare other garnishes at same time)
  • 10 minutes to prepare bread crumbs
  • 15 minutes to cut, pound, and bread cutlets
  • 5 minutes to let breaded cutlets rest before frying (heat oil while waiting)
  • 5 to 10 minutes to fry cutlets in two batches

Essential Tools

  • Microwave for drying bread
  • Food processor for grinding bread into crumbs
  • Tongs for handling cutlets during breading process
  • Wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet for holding breaded cutlets
  • Dutch oven (at least 6 quarts) for frying schnitzel
  • Instant-read thermometer for gauging temperature of oil (A clip-on candy/deep-fry thermometer can also be used.)
  • Paper towels for draining fried cutlets

Substitutions & Variations

  • In lieu of a thermometer to gauge the oil’s temperature, place a fresh (not dry) bread cube in the oil and start heating; when the bread is deep golden brown, the oil is ready.
  • This recipe calls for one large (1¼-pound) tenderloin to yield four cutlets. Pork tenderloins vary considerably in size, with some weighing in at just ¾ pound. If that’s the case, cut just three cutlets per tenderloin. The key is to make sure the cutlets—no matter the starting point—are between ⅛ and ¼ inch when pounded.

The 2 cups of oil called for in this recipe may seem like a lot, but this amount is necessary to achieve a wrinkled texture on the finished cutlets. When properly cooked, the cutlets absorb very little oil. Cutting the pork tenderloin at about a 20-degree angle will yield pounded cutlets that fit easily into the pan.

  • 7 slices hearty white sandwich bread, crusts removed, bread cut into ¾-inch cubes
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs, plus 1 large hard-cooked egg, yolk and white separated and passed separately through fine-mesh strainer (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 (1¼-pound) pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut on angle into 4 equal pieces
  • Salt and pepper
  • Lemon wedges
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
  1. Place bread cubes on large plate. Microwave on high power for 4 minutes, stirring well halfway through microwaving. Microwave on medium power until bread is dry and few pieces start to lightly brown, 3 to 5 minutes, stirring every minute. Process dry bread in food processor to very fine crumbs, about 45 seconds. Transfer bread crumbs to shallow dish (you should have about 1¼ cups crumbs). Spread flour in second shallow dish. Beat eggs with 1 tablespoon oil in third shallow dish.
  2. Set wire rack in rimmed baking sheet and line plate with triple layer of paper towels. Working with 1 piece at a time, place pork, with 1 cut side down, between 2 sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap and pound to even thickness between ⅛ and ¼ inch. Pat cutlets dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Working with 1 cutlet at a time, dredge cutlets thoroughly in flour, shaking off excess; coat with egg mixture, allowing excess to drip back into dish to ensure very thin coating; and coat evenly with bread crumbs, pressing on crumbs to adhere. Place breaded cutlets in single layer on prepared wire rack; let coating dry for 5 minutes.
  3. Heat remaining 2 cups oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat to 375 degrees. Lay 2 cutlets, without overlapping, in pot and cook, shaking pot continuously and gently, until cutlets are wrinkled and light golden brown on both sides, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer cutlets to paper towel–lined plate and flip cutlets several times to blot excess oil. Repeat with remaining cutlets. Serve with lemon wedges, parsley, capers, and, if desired, hard-cooked egg.

Foolproof Hard-Cooked Eggs

Makes 6 Eggs

You may double or even triple this recipe as long as you use a pot large enough to hold the eggs in a single layer, covered by an inch of water, while they cook. You can also cook fewer eggs if you like—the timing remains the same.

  • 6 large eggs

Place eggs in medium saucepan, cover with 1 inch of water, and bring to boil over high heat. Remove pan from heat, cover, and let sit for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, fill medium bowl with 1 quart water and 1 tray of ice cubes (or equivalent). Transfer eggs to ice water bath with slotted spoon; let sit for 5 minutes. Peel and use as desired. (Hard-cooked eggs can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.)

A Better Way to Peel Hard-Cooked Eggs

Because our method for hard-cooking eggs relies on residual heat to gently cook the eggs there’s no risk of overcooking. Just set the timer when the water comes to a boil and move the pot off the heat and you can banish all worries about greenish yolks. However, even if the eggs are perfectly cooked, you still need a method for peeling them. Here’s how to accomplish this task easily. Note that the ice bath is crucial to the success of this method. Not only does the ice water stop the cooking process (and thus prevent overcooking), but the water seeps under the cracked shells and helps to loosen them.

foolproof-hard-cooked-eggs-a

1). When timer goes off, immediately pour water from saucepan and gently shake back and forth to crack egg shells. Use slotted spoon to transfer eggs to ice bath and let sit for 5 minutes.

foolproof-hard-cooked-eggs-b

2). Remove eggs from ice bath. Starting at wider end of each egg, peel away shell in one strip. (The wider end has an air pocket, which makes it the best place to tear the shell without cutting into the white.) When done, dunk peeled egg back into ice bath to remove any stray bits of shell (if necessary).

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