Before traveling to Austria several years ago, I thought schnitzel was, by definition, made with veal. That was how I always had it, and that was fine with me: a well-made veal schnitzel is a wonderful thing.
But then in Vienna, I tasted pork schnitzel, which is just as traditional as veal over there. Where veal schnitzel is delicate and lean, pork schnitzel is full-flavored and fatty. And as much as I like delicate and lean, I like full-flavored and fatty even more.
Another point in pork’s favor: It is more economical and forgiving than veal, and thus better suited to weeknight cooking.
I start with a boneless loin cutlet, preferably one with a nice ring of white fat around the edges. Then I pound it as thin as I can get it, usually about 1/8 inch. I use a meat mallet to do the job. If you have one, use the flat side, not the textured side, which is for tenderizing tough cuts. Pork cutlets are tender enough to begin with without the added smashing. A rolling pin also works, as does a heavy skillet.
I like to serve something crisp and tart with my schnitzel. A salad with a bright dressing works, as do pickles straight out of the jar.
Homemade quick pickles are the best of both worlds: fresh and like a salad, yet tangy enough to counter the irresistibly rich pairing of fried and pork. And you can let the pickles cure while the schnitzel cooks. A combination of vinegar, salt and sugar is the traditional pickling mix, but for this recipe, I substituted lime juice and a bit of the fragrant rind for the acid. If you don’t want to make pickles, just slice up a cucumber or two, maybe a fennel bulb, toss with salt and serve it with your schnitzel, with lime wedges on the side.
I’ve never had the problem of having leftover schnitzel to account for. But if I did, I’d make it into a sandwich for lunch the next day, topped with some of the quick pickles and a big smear of mayonnaise. This, in and of itself, may be reason enough to fry up an extra cutlet or two while you’re at it.
And of course, if you are feeling delicate and lean, feel free to make this with veal.
Pork Schnitzel with Quick Pickles
Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
For the Pickles:
3 small Kirby cucumbers or 1 large cucumber, peeled if you like and thinly sliced
1/3 cup very thinly sliced fennel bulb (save the fronds for garnish)
1 large shallot or ½ small red onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
For the Pork Cutlets:
½ cup flour
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 eggs, beaten
1 ½ cups panko or other unseasoned breadcrumbs
1 ¼ pounds boneless pork cutlets, pounded to ∂-inch thick
Coarse kosher salt and ground black pepper
Safflower, peanut or vegetable oil, for frying
1 scallion, thinly sliced, including greens
Lingonberry jam, for serving (optional)
1. Prepare the pickles: Grate the zest from one of the limes and juice them both. Add zest and juice to a shallow bowl along with the remaining pickle ingredients and toss well. Let sit for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 days. Chill if letting them sit for longer than 4 hours.
2. Meanwhile, prepare the pork: Mix flour with cayenne and nutmeg. Place flour mixture in a shallow dish, eggs in a second dish, and breadcrumbs in a third. Season cutlets generously with salt and pepper.
3. Heat 1/8 inch oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. While oil heats, dip cutlets one by one into flour (shake off any excess), then into eggs (ditto) and finally into the breadcrumbs, taking care not to handle pork more than necessary (hold meat by ends).
4. When oil sizzles when a pinch of breadcrumbs is thrown in, add as many cutlets as comfortably fit in one layer, leaving plenty of room around them. Swirl and tilt pan so oil cascades over top of cutlets in waves. When bottoms are golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes, flip and brown the other sides, swirling pan (swirling helps create air pockets, giving you lighter schnitzel). Transfer to a paper-towel-lined platter and sprinkle with more salt. Repeat with remaining pork.
5. Serve pork sprinkled with scallion and drizzled with a little pickle juice, accompanied by the pickles and the lingonberry jam, if you like.
And to drink ...
The short answer: Think Austrian. Either grüner veltliner or good dry Austrian riesling go with schnitzel. If you prefer red, you could try a fresh, lithe zweigelt. Beyond Austria, many dry whites with substance and body will do: chardonnay, as long as it’s not oaky; Savennières, herbal sauvignon blancs, Soave, ribolla gialla from northeast Italy, a godello from Spain.
— Eric Asimov