Chicken “Wiener” Schnitzel

By Resident Chef: Harvey Pincis

Well yes, the classic Viennese dish all of 150 years old, is made with veal and the Austrian/German version made with other meat is called Schnitzel Wiener Art, that is, Viennese style schnitzel. Quite apart from the ‘orthodoxy’ of the veal version, and nice enough as it is, increasingly I am moving away from red meat. Not on grounds of taste, so much as moving towards a classic Mediterranean diet, partly on health grounds; much of the world faces an increasing obesity problem (caused by many factors – not only red meat), but also climate change that the great and the good in Davos, but as I write is liable to have long term effects on world health and economy. By reducing our red meat intake we are doing the world and ourselves a favour. 


Ruminant animals contribute a significant amount to Carbon emissions and while semi-mountainous grasslands cannot contribute much, if anything to arable farming, the carbon miles involved in transporting either meat or live animals thousands of miles including the emissions from the animals themselves and if arable land is lost as a consequence of herding cattle, we are helping, unwittingly to the degradation of our world. Having read many articles on the subject, more by serious scientists, than diet salespeople, there is a serious underlying point why we should adjust our diets to suit the needs of the planet. We can still get an energy intake, but in a more gentle way.


Having got the pep talk out of the way, though with good intentions, like many dishes that countries or various places claim as their own, the supposed history is very cloudy, to say the least. Supposedly, the origins are Milanese and sprinkling gold leaf on the cooked cutlets made the golden colour. Again an ambassador of the Austrian Empire was so impressed he told the Emperor, who demanded the recipe. That is the theory, but no supporting evidence has showed up so far, so the jury, as they say is out on the subject. The dish, is very nice and with a mushroom sauce, herbed with sage, does tend to hit the spot and embellished with a squeezed quarter of lemon does something to keep the taste buds alive. The mushroom is also a personal favourite and is an excellent source of calcium and with some powdered dry mushroom added to the fresh, raises the flavour profile quite powerfully.


The chickens breasts (or veal if one insists) are beaten to be fairly thin, not a wafer, but as we will be frying for a short time, we only want a ¼ or 1/3 of a ‘normal’ beefsteak. Also we want the cutlet to be tender. Marinate with salt, pepper, minced onion and minced garlic. You may wish to uses some ‘chicken spices’ as some brands call it or a pinch of cumin and maybe some lemon juice. I would keep things as simple as possible and while my much better half is on the chicken spice warpath (not really warpath), I do not think there is much lacking as the mushroom sauce is quite herby with the sage. Two schools of thought and a democratic household. 


While the flattened cutlets are marinating, prepare the sauce. Sultan have (I’m looking at you Sultan – not every week) trays of a great mix of different mushrooms. This, or a mixture of fresh mushrooms is the sauce base, augmented by a handful of dried mushrooms powdered in a blender along with an unscientific handful of sage leaves. This of course depends on how much of a sage hit you wish for, though I find mushroom and sage and mushroom and oregano, both good marriages. I do one or the other and because I am blitzing the mushrooms once fried and reduced with in the saucepan and left to simmer, with the Ayran (not far from Laban/sour cream) some extra salt pepper and a generous amount of herb is otherwise lost. Hence also the powdered dry mushroom. 


Once all is blitzed with a stick blender and the balance of Ayran/cream/milk keeps the sauce both liquid, but not too loose, that is left to simmer on low, low simmer. 


The cutlets are now ready to be tossed in flower, egg and breadcrumbs (unless one is making chips/fries or salad accompaniment), to be fried, at first relatively hot, to seal and avoid fat absorption, and then down to medium, turning to make both sides equally golden.


And serve.


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