Has this ever happened to you: you have guests drop in unexpected for dinner and all you have is one lousy chicken breast in the fridge. Or one pork chop. Or maybe one of each. No need to panic. Here is a great idea that is right up there with the miracle of the fishes and the loaves. Schnitzel. What a great way to stretch that single chicken breast into a dinner for four.
It sounds impossible doesn’t it? One chicken breast feeding four people, especially when we’re used to one breast per person as a reasonable portion.
Schnitzel means cutlet, a boneless, thinly sliced cut of meat, usually breaded and fried. Weiner Schnitzel refers to a schnitzel that is made from veal only, but chicken, pork, and even beef work well, the latter appearing in that iconic dish of the south, Chicken Fried Steak.
There are three fantastic things about schnitzel. First, it’s super easy, quick, and actually a lot of fun to make. Second, it is inexpensive; a single chicken breast can easily give you five good-sized pieces. Thirdly, and maybe most importantly, it is delicious. Served with a lemon wedge, garnished with a sprinkling of parsley and some new boiled potatoes or potato salad, schnitzel wins on all counts. For a really refereshing side, you can whip up the German Cucumber Salad pictured above.
There is no secret to good schnitzel, but you can mess it up if you cook it too long, or at too high heat. The meat should be sliced quite thin, no thicker than half an inch thick. Then it should be tenderized by gently pounding it with a meat pounder until it is about one third of an inch thick. This not only tenderizes the cutlet, but it literally stretches it too.
Next, follow the protocol of standard breading; dredge each cutlet in seasoned bread flour, dip it in a beaten egg, (wipe off any extra egg with your fingers) then, right before frying it in butter, thoroughly coat the cutlet in bread crumbs or panko.
I like to season the breadcrumbs with the zest of a lemon, a little salt and pepper and pinch of herbes de provence.
Heat your skillet to medium, add a good piece of butter, a tablespoon at least, and when the butter is nice and bubbly, add your cutlets. Let them cook for about a minute and a half, then flip them, adding more butter if necessary, and cook another minute and a half or until they are beautifully browned. Do not overcrowd the pan! If all your cutlets do not fit in the pan at once, place cooked schnitzels on a baking rack in a warm oven. Repeat frying till all your schnitzels are cooked, adding butter as you go. Garnish with a lemon wedge, shazam it with some roughly chopped Italian parsley and serve immediately.