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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Which Came First?

Frau Olga could crank out platters of wiener schnitzel  in her sleep.  Because we didn't eat them often, we never knew when schnitzels would pop up on our supper table. Frau Olga spent most of her days filling our house with the intoxicating aromas of her long braised Bavarian, Austrian, and Czechoslovakian fare. Occasionally, she'd effortlessly sneak wiener schnitzels into the rotation without explanation or apology. Dictated by her daily schedule, they must have been her quick and easy Viennese take on our American sloppy joes. It didn't matter. I adored them.

Schnitzel variations can be prepared with thin cutlets of chicken, pork, or veal. Frau Olga stayed true to the classic Austrian version. She fried breaded veal cutlets in butter until they were golden brown. Topped with fresh parsley, she served them with lemon wedges and boiled potatoes.  Old school. Classic. Fabulous.

I strayed from her version by tipping my hat to my German heritage with a play on Schnitzel Holstein. Originating in Berlin, schnitzel holstein is a pan-fried breaded cutlet topped with a fried egg, capers, and anchovies. Basic. Quick and easy.

I butterflied a large boneless chicken breast, placed it between plastic wrap, and pounded the crap out of it until the breast was about 1/4 inch thick. I sliced the breast into two flat lobes and trimmed the edges before running each half through a breading station (flour, egg wash, and dried bread crumbs). After shaking the excess breading from the schnitzels, I slid them into the refrigerator to chill and set up for 30 minutes.

While the schnitzels chilled, I peeled and boiled 8 small yukon gold potatoes.  When they were fork tender, I drained the potatoes and tossed them into a small cast iron skillet with 3 tablespoons of melted butter. Working over a medium flame, I sauteed the potatoes until they started to crisp before showering them with minced fresh parsley.

After cranking a larger cast iron skillet over a medium high flame, I added equal parts butter and olive oil, 3 tablespoons each.  When the butter sizzled and bubbled, I sauteed the chicken schnitzels until they were golden brown, about 4 minutes per side.  I slid the schnitzels and potatoes into a warm oven and poured myself a huge glass of wine while Michael carefully fried two large eggs, sunny side up. Sneaky me.

I pulled the chicken from the oven and splashed them with fresh lemon juice before slipping the jiggly eggs over each schnitzel.  After swirling anchovy filets onto the firm egg whites along  with a scattering of tiny capers, I topped the yolks with snipped fresh chives and tumbled the buttered potatoes to the side.

It took every ounce of my weakened willpower to not make a pan sauce from the skillet crud. The good crud. The flavor bombs. The fond. Ha! The schnitzels didn't need a sauce. At. All. When slit, the warm runny yolks oozed over the crisped chicken and mixed with the lemon juice to accidentally create a rich lemony egg sauce.  Instant hollandaise.  While the briny piquancy of the capers balanced the intense pungency of the anchovies, the soft eggs and crisp potatoes calmed the craziness.

The perfect bite? A slab of chicken schnitzel speared with a caper, flecked with an anchovy, and swiped through  silken warm egg yolks. Salty. Tart. Rich. Ridiculous.

Oh sure, the dolled up schnitzel holsteins were a far cry from my childhood version of wiener schnitzel.

Frau Olga would have loved them.

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