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A schnitzel is an escalope, or a boneless piece of meat pounded thin using a mallet, that is lightly salted and coated in flour, whipped eggs, and bread crumbs before being fried. One of the most popular kinds is the Viennese specialty, weiner schnitzel, or veal schnitzel. The dish was first mentioned in a cookbook from Prague in 1831, though it is similar in nature to cotoletta alla Milanese, an Italian breaded veal cutlet (cooked with the bone in) that dates back to 1148.
Prepared from a butterflied cut of veal, weiner schnitzel fries up light and crisp as it swims in a bath of hot fat (lard or clarified butter are ideal). The breadcrumbs are not pressed into the cutlet, allowing them to stay dry and develop a beautiful golden crust. It's traditionally served with just a simple slice of lemon.
The recipe is not rocket science, but there are a few steps you can follow to make sure the meat is tender, evenly cooked, and perfectly golden.
Ingredients 4 veal cutlets (6 to 8 oz), pounded to 1/4 to 1/8 inch thickness Salt and pepper Flour 2 eggs, plus 2 tbsp water, beaten 2 cups fine breadcrumbs, or fresh dried white breadcrumbs Lard or clarified butter, for frying Lemon, sliced thin, for serving
To pound the cutlets: Lay out a piece of plastic wrap on a hard, flat work surface. Place a cutlet on top and add another layer of plastic wrap to cover. Working from the center outward, use the smooth side of a mallet (or the back of a pan or rolling pin) to evenly pound the meat thin, hitting it as hard as you would knock on a door. Repeat until all cutlets are desired thickness.
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Set up a breading station with 3 wide, shallow bowls (one for flour, one for eggs, and one for breadcrumbs). Pat cutlets dry and season with salt and pepper. One at a time, dredge in flour, shaking off the excess, then dip into egg wash before gently coating with breadcrumbs, being careful not to press.
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add enough lard or clarified butter so that the cutlets can swim (but are not fully submerged) in the fat, about 1/4 inch deep. When the fat has melted and is hot but not smoking, add the cutlets one or two at a time, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Fry, swirling occasionally, until golden brown and crisp on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Repeat the process, replacing the hot fat each time, until all the cutlets are cooked. Transfer to a paper towel to drain.
Serve immediately with thinly sliced lemon.
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