30 April 2014

Sumac & Thyme Schnitzel. Bless you!

Believe it or not, this was the first time I'd ever tried to make anything remotely resembling a schnitzel.  I know!  Weird that it had managed to escape me for this long.

I think the main reason for it having escaped me, was that Hubby has always done the "egg and breadcrumb" dishes in the past - and I was happy to leave it that way, as his results have always been pretty spectacular.  However, it occurred to me that for all that it was great to have a successful egg and breadcrumber on hand, it would also be good if I were to master the art!

Instrumental in this decision was our new Ceracraft pan.  It's one of those ones with the white ceramic insides - and it is absolutely wonderful.  Absolutely nothing sticks to it (or nothing so far!) and it cleans with the wipe of a cloth, no matter how much devastation you leave in it.

Not worrying about how the pan is going to behave when frying, is quite a comfort if you're a bit leery about frying, as I am.  I think I might have taken the Fire Brigade's dire warnings about frying pans bursting into flames a bit too much to heart when I was younger and ultimately became too scared to break out a frying pan.

Frying was something else that Hubby used to do for me, as I was too scared to try it out (much the same as grilling things - which I've also conquered since).  So it is any wonder I hadn't tried making something like Schnitzel?  No, I don't think so!

Now, with my trusty Ceracraft pan with its fantastic well fitting lid (which I can clap on top, if ever it does decide to burst into flames), I feel confident enough to get on with the serious frying.

Neither Hubby nor son & heir are particularly enthusiastic about pork (when it's not in a sausage or rasher of bacon), so I bought just the one piece of pork for me - and a couple of chicken breasts for the menfolk.  In fact, the butcher didn't have pork steaks that day (what's up with that then?  No pork steaks?  Tut!), so we bought a pork chop and I simply removed the bone before cooking.  I don't recommend you try to hammer a pork chop bone flat - at least, not with a wooden meat mallet, anyway.  *wink* 

The chicken was simply trimmed of fat and gristle, then halved through the middle to form a "butterfly" and hammered flat.  I did the same with the pork, in that I butterflied it and smacked it one with the meat mallet so that it was roughly the same thickness.  Doing this is essential for this type of cooking, as you want the meat to cook at the same time.  It'd be no good having to wait for the thick end to cook, while the thin end is busy going dry or getting burned.  If ever I manage to lay my hands upon some British Rose Veal escalopes, you can be absolutely sure they're going to be turned into Wiener Schnitzels, quick-sharp!

So having got the meat how I wanted it to be, it was a simple matter of whipping up some eggs, seasoning some flour and working out what flavours I wanted to appear in the breadcrumbs.  I made the breadcrumbs myself, from a few slices of my lovely Polish Bakery sourdough bread that is just perfect for breadcrumbing as it is really substantial and so totally not cotton wool-ish.  A few minutes in the mini food processor and you're sorted, with perfect breadcrumbs.  I decided to season the breadcrumbs with a combination of black pepper, celery salt, dried thyme (just a tiny pinch as I really don't like it at all - but I know that my menfolk do), dried parsley and made the majority flavour that of Sumac, for its gorgeous zestiness.

The process of dipping into flour, egg then breadcrumbs was easy enough - I was forsighted enough to do this beside the sink so had good access to hand washing facilities - and Dustbin No. 1 (Jonty dog) was there to take care of the excess egg.  I was pleased to see that I'd made sufficient breadcrumbs, as it's always a bit of a lottery as to whether the breadcrumbs will make it to the end of the things you're trying to cover with them!

Following a half an hour in the fridge to firm up, they went into the pan with a mixture of goat butter and rapeseed oil on a moderate heat for around 10 minutes each side.  Make sure to not fiddle about with them - just leave them to cook and let the crumb set, then become crisp.  If you fiddle about with them, keep turning them or lifting them up, they will find it very hard to become crisp.  You can see from the very edge how they're doing - and once that edge starts to become golden, you know you're onto a winner.

I sneaked one of the smaller chicken schnitzels onto my plate, just so that I could compare and contrast.  I made these smaller ones from the chicken tenders - or inner fillets - and they were a perfect little size for a smaller appetite.   The pork version was a lot more robust and required a little bit longer in the cooking to become tender, however the flavour was a touch above the chicken versions.  The chicken ones were super-tender and very tasty - the seasoning in the breadcrumbs was more obvious with the chicken, so bear that in mind when you are choosing whether to use pork or chicken.

The flavour of both was really good - and the meat in both cases retained its moistness, largely due to the speed at which they cook and the flour/egg mixture sealing the juices in.  I can't wait to make some more, but this time I might have a go at the Southern Fried style of flavour combination.

I served the schnitzels with buttered new potatoes,  a mixed salad and a very nice minty mixed bean salad that I found in Asda.  However, for a speedier supper, I should imagine they'd be great with just chips, too!

So come on, put your big girl/boy pants on and have a crack at egg and breadcrumbing, followed by a bit of shallow frying.  You know you want to!


Ingredients :

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or 3 boneless pork steaks
2-3 tbsp plain flour
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg (have another handy, just in case you need it)
4-5 slices of tasty bread, slightly stale, breadcrumbed
1 tsp celery salt
1 tsp dried parsley
half a tsp dried thyme
1 heaped tsp ground sumac
3 tsp rapeseed oil (required separately)
3 tsp butter (required separately).

Method :

1.  Well before you require the meat for cooking, prepare it for coating with the seasoned flour, egg and breadcrumbs.  Take each steak or breast and cut through it down a long side, opening it out and effectively butterflying it.

2.  Place onto a piece of cling film - opened out in the butterfly shape - and sprinkle with a couple of drops of water.  This helps the cling film not to stick.  Using a blunt instrument - or a meat hammer on the blunt side - gently but firmly hammer the meat until just a quarter of an inch thick, or less.

3.  Place onto a plate and cover with cling film.  Continue to the next breast or steak and repeat, placing it on top of the cling film and covering with another piece of film.  Continue until all pieces are butterflied, hammered to an even thickness and stacked, then cover the lot with film and refrigerate.

4.  About an hour and a half before you are due to cook, remove the meat from the fridge and prepare the three coating bowls - which should be a decent size so as to fit each schnitzel in without overlapping the side.

5.  Into one bowl, place the flour and season well with salt and pepper.  Mix the seasoning in.

6.  Crack an egg into the second bowl and whisk with a fork.

7.  Add the breadcrumbs, a good amount of black pepper, the celery salt, parsley, thyme and sumac to the last bowl and mix well.

8.  Take the first breast or steak and gently lay it on top of the flour, then turn so that both sides are well coated.  You may need to press down a little, to ensure every inch gets a coating.

9.  Move on to the egg and lay the meat into the beaten egg, again turn to achieve an even coating, but don't wash the flour off!

10.  Straight away, lay the meat onto the seasoned breadcrumbs and lightly press down to convince the crumbs to stick.  Once again, turn and repeat to achieve an even coating of crumbs.

11.  Place each schnitzel onto a plate or baking tray (I covered a tray with cling film and used that) and refrigerate for an hour.

12.  Once it comes to cooking, take a large frying pan - non-stick are best - and heat 1 teaspoonful of the oil on a moderate heat, adding 1 teaspoonful of the butter just before you add the schnitzel.

13.  Once the butter is frothy, add the schnitzel to the pan and leave it alone!  Don't be tempted to shuffle it around the pan, or to turn it too soon.  You want the coating to achieve a crispy shell before you turn the schnitzel and cook the other side.

14.  Cooking usually takes around 7-8 minutes each side, but to check simply cut through the thickest part of each schnitzel and pull the edges of the cut aside so that you can see a) what colour the meat is, and b) what colour the juices are.  If there is any sign of any pinkness, turn the schnitzel and continue cooking until all traces of pink have gone.

15.  Place onto some kitchen paper and keep warm whilst you cook the remainder of the schnitzels.  It is best not to stack the schnitzels or the ones at the bottom of the stack will go soggy whilst they are waiting.  Keep them separate to retain the crispiness of the coating.

Serve with new potatoes, or potato salad and a garden salad.

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