The restaurateurs Corbin and King – Chris and Jeremy I say with insouciant familiarity, having many moons ago encountered Chris as a waiter at Langan’s Brasserie and Jeremy as assistant maître’d at Joe Allen, and then often since – have been inspired by the Grand Cafés of Europe in several of their relatively recent ventures.
Menus at The Delaunay in Aldwych and Fischer’s in Marylebone both have sections offering variations on schnitzel. Wiener Schnitzel does not reference Vienna – as I assumed – but means made with veal and as such is protected under Austrian law.
Whether based on chicken, pork or veal, schnitzels seem to me ideal offerings from a restaurant’s point of view. Once beaten out and coated in crumbs, they can be stacked neatly in the fridge like a pack of creaky cards, taken out and quickly fried to order. My restaurateur son Ben says approvingly that once cooked they look bigger than they are – I get what he means – and, indeed, with judicious hammering a schnitzel can cover a dinner plate.
My favourite Wiener Schnitzel comes with the description Holstein (Baron Holstein actually) meaning capped with a fried egg, on top of which anchovies are crossed like swords and surrounded by oily or buttery juices into which capers and a squirt of lemon juice have been stirred.
Anyone weaned on fish fingers will take naturally to schnitzels and of course the cooking method can as easily be applied to fillets of cod, hake or any firm white variety of fish.
Time to prepare and cook: about 20 minutes
You will need: escalopes of chicken or pork or veal, flour, egg, decent white bread or alternatively panko crumbs, vegetable oil, butter, lemon. For Holstein: egg, anchovies and capers.
- Choose a robust kind of white loaf to whiz in a food processor to make fresh crumbs, or use bought-in dried breadcrumbs – but not those evil orange ones that feel and taste like English sand. If you have Japanese panko crumbs – more flakes than crumbs – to hand, they also produce an excellent result, somewhat bouncier thanks to their inclusion of yeast.
- Lay the chosen escalopes between sheets of cling film or greaseproof paper. Beat them flat but keep intact – avoiding lacy holes – with a rolling pin or meat mallet.
- Put a couple of tablespoons of flour on a plate and season with salt and pepper.
- Break an egg into a shallow bowl and whisk with a fork. Put the breadcrumbs into another shallow bowl.
- Lay the escalope on the flour and then turn it over so that it is lightly covered. Run it through the whisked egg, also on both sides. Put it on the breadcrumbs – don’t press too hard – and then turn.
- Fry in a mixture of hot oil with butter added, turning once, for about 4-5 minutes or until, when poking it with a sharp knife, you can see the meat is opaque throughout. Drain on kitchen paper.
- Serve with lemon wedges and for strict authenticity Schwäbischer Kartoffelsalat, a potato salad dressed with vinegary broth. But that is a recipe for another time.