Schnitzel also goes by other regional names—dishes you might not otherwise associate with name schnitzel, but would recognize by the similarity of preparation techniques.
Escalope, scallopine, scallop, cutlet—these are among the myriad names used for the same cuts of meat and poultry that make schnitzel.
Schnitzel is a relatively recently coined named, as it was developed in Europe—Austria, in particular—in the mid-1800s. The most famous rendering, Wiener schnitzel, was a very structured creation. Wien is the Austrian name for the city we call Vienna. Schnitzel in German means escalope. In the Austrian original, a veal escalope was the only acceptable meat for this recipe. Therefore, the classic dish is literally an escalope of veal prepared in the Viennese style.
And that Viennese style was synonymous with a slice of veal loin pounded to 1/4 to 1/8 inch thick, dipped in a succession of flour, egg wash, and breadcrumbs before cooking.
When you take a look at other countries and cultures, other types of meat are used interchangeably. Pounded or butterflied cutlets of pork, beef, or lamb loin, as well as chicken or turkey breast, are treated in the same manner. For making your own schnitzel at home, try Veal Loin Medallions, Berkshire Pork Loin Medallions, or Tenderloin Steaks.
Outside Eastern Europe, similar names include scallopine, cotoletta, piccata, and parmigiana in Italy; apanados in Columbia; shenitsel from Iran; shnitsel from Israel; milanesa in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay; and tonkatsu in Japan.
Similarly, Hainanese pork chop from Singapore, and even chicken-fried steak from the Southern U.S. are all variants of schnitzel.
In France, they cut a pocket in a chicken breast and fill it with cheese and ham to make Cordon Bleu. In Switzerland, Cordon Bleu uses the same filling ingredients, but sandwiches them between two chicken schnitzels. In Russia and the Ukraine, the chicken cutlet is pounded, breaded, and rolled around a filling of garlicky herbed butter to become Chicken Kiev.
In Germany, pork is preferred for most schnitzel adaptations which are differentiated by the sauce that covers them or the ingredients and garnishes that accompany them. Hunter’s style (Jägerschnitzel) is topped with a rich mushroom gravy; Gypsy style is served with a tomato sauce containing bell peppers and onions; natural style is served with only pan drippings for sauce; and vegetarian versions are made with tofu, seitan, or soy protein.
Cooking and Serving Schnitzel
The most basic schnitzel is a 4- to 8-ounce loin cutlet, also known as a medallion, or a poultry breast pounded flat with a mallet or other suitable heavy object. Next the schnitzel is dredged in flour, and then dipped in an egg wash made in proportions of one whole egg for each tablespoon of water per serving. Finally, the schnitzel is coated in breadcrumbs or Panko before cooking.
Regarding personal style, schnitzel in all its forms can be cooked with various dry-heat methods: sautéed (low-fat, high heat), fried (higher-fat, lower heat), shallow fried (hot clarified butter or oil up to 1/2 depth of the schnitzel), or deep fried (hot oil deep enough to immerse the entire schnitzel).
Traditional Wiener schnitzel accompaniments include lemon slices, boiled or parslied potatoes, potato or leaf salad, or cucumber slices. Braised red cabbage, sauerkraut and spaetzle are also frequent accompaniments in German versions of the dish.
Traditional German potato salad has a unique bacon-vinegar flavor meld going on that can cut through the richness of any type of schnitzel.
What’s your favorite rendition of schnitzel? Which type of meat do you prefer as schnitzel? What are your ideal accompaniments for schnitzel?