How to personalise schnitzel.
Who doesn’t love a good schnitty? But the Aussie pub favourite isn’t the only way to eat crumbed meat
CULINARY philosopher and comedian Dave O’neill once famously opined that “everything is better crumbed”. A quick glance around the world confirms he’s not alone in this opinion, whether it’s the cotolettas of Italy, the cutlets of India, the paillards of France or Japanese katsu.
So what are the secrets of great crumbing? Beating the meat out thin between two sheets of plastic wrap or kitchen paper is crucial, not because the meat cooks quicker or that the process breaks down the fibres making it seem more tender, but because this gives you more surface area and therefore a higher ratio of crunchy coating to meat.
Your choice of crumb is important, whether it’s fresh crumbs, panko breadcrumbs or something funky like smashed cornflakes, ground peanuts or toasted rice (with the purist in me still asking if this is an actual “crumb”).
I like to crumb in advance and then let it “set” in the fridge for at least half an hour before cooking. A great tweak is to flavour that crumb with finely grated parmesan, herbs or spices.
The Italians love flattening their veal for cotoletta Milanese. When making it, add lemon zest and parmesan to the breadcrumbs, and fry in a mix of olive oil and butter. Serve with raddichio dressed with lemon juice, or make a simple sauce by deglazing the pan with white wine and reducing this with stock and a squeeze of lemon juice. Season and finish with chopped Italian parsley.
It’s similar to the Italian but I add thyme to the breadcrumbs, use chicken thigh and double crumb. Obviously, it must be served with a classic coleslaw – and if that’s all placed between two slices of buttered white toast all the better. Of course, you could Parma it up by arranging the schnitzels on a baking tray, laying slices of ham and cheese on each, and then banging under a hot grill until the cheese tans. Serve with a tomato sauce on the side.
Beat out sliced and opened up pork fillets and crumb as usual but fry with cubes of speck (aka smoked bacon). When golden and just cooked, move them and the bacon to the oven. Fry slices of apple in the fat that remains, then deglaze with a splash of dry white wine. Next, add a dollop of sour cream and a pinch of caraway seeds. Reduce for a few minutes for a simple sauce.
Make Japanese katsu by dunking small, thin slices of chicken thigh in flour, then into egg beaten with soy sauce, and finally into panko crumbs to coat. Fry quickly and serve piled high, striped with piped lines of Japanese mayonnaise and a brown or barbecue sauce. Serve with rice, soy (or ponzu) and fresh lime juice.
Indian cutlets are usually made with ground lamb and mashed potatoes, but why not riff on that idea using the local favourite of crumbed chops. Marinate butterflied, boned and beaten out chops in grated onion, turmeric, a good dash of curry powder and lemon juice. Wipe the lamb, then directly crumb with a mix of fine dry breadcrumbs and almond flour. Fry or grill and serve with minted yoghurt, ribbons of salted cucumber, flatbreads and lime or mango pickle.
Add crushed peanuts to the panko crumbs pressed on to beaten out chicken thighs and serve these crunchy golden gems with a herb salad loaded with a dressing made with palm sugar, fish sauce and lime juice.
Rub beaten chicken breast in Dijon mustard before dunking in flour, egg and fresh breadcrumbs mixed with thyme, gruyere and a pinch of salt. Fry in foaming butter and olive oil. Serve with beans and mashed potatoes.
Of course, you don’t need to fry at all. Instead, try my recipe for baked schnitzel at delicious.com.au.
Matt’s homestyle chicken schnitzel. For recipe see delicious.com.au.