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Fun With Schnitzel

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Believe me: you want to try making schnitzel ASAP. This meal was the most fun I had cooking in a long time. Hammers, hitting things, deep-frying, and trying to pronounce things as Germanly as possible, while singing tunes from The Sound of Music; schnitzel-making brought out all of my most primal instincts and it was wildly satisfying. It all began when I invited Kerry and Isaac over for dinner for project:favoritefoods. Kerry pretty simply told me that potatoes in any form would do for her, so Dan made a warm potato salad with bacon. Isaac had no real ideas on his favorite meal, but he'd just been in Germany visiting family, we already had German potato salad and it was Oktoberfest, so I figured I'd just go all out with some schnitzel-- viva la Deutschland!

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That's when I learned that all the foods I thought were German were actually Austrian. Also, every thing and idea I associated with Germany pretty much came from watching The Sound of Music ad nauseum as a child. We had a two-part VHS set, which I watched literally every day for a year or two, but only the first video because in part two, there were way too many Nazis and car chases for me. So, The Sound of Music, up until Maria leaves the house after the ball when she dances with the captain and the children sing "So Long, Farewell" was what I thought Germany was all about. Alps, kind but gossipy nuns, frauleins, lederhosen, cute young blonde boys, rigid fathers with whistles, marionettes, crisp apple strudel, and schnitzel with noodles.

Alas, upon flushing all of my pre-conceived notions down the garbage disposal, there wasn't nearly enough time to make real German food-- sausages from scratch or a sauerbraten, perhaps-- so schnitzel it was.

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We had a ton of fun when the night turned to a post-beers game of Cards Against Humanity, which Kerry had given me for my birthday. Nothing quite contributes to a night of crass laughs like in-your-face offensive jokes, braised cabbage, German beers, potato salad and smashed, breaded, and deep fried meat with a sour cream chive sauce.

It took everything in me to not perform a rousing rendition of "How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?" or "Climb Every Mountain" to cap off the night, but this is a daily struggle and so I've learned to reign it in.

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Moral of the story is, schnitzel and strudel are both Austrian, but for a fun Oktoberfest dinner, it'll certainly do. I'm still in awe of how simple and tasty it was. All it takes is proper seasoning (remember to use your salt at every stage of dredging and frying) and five minutes for a crisp cutlet like mom used to make. Or dad. Or captain. Whatever you call him, just make sure to step forward when your signal is whistled and you'll be in the clear.

Pork Schnitzel Adapted from recipe found on Simply Recipes

8 boneless pork cutlets

3/4 cup all purpose flour

2 eggs, beaten

1 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs

1 tsp paprika

1/2 cup canola or olive oil, for frying

3/4 cup chicken stock (or water)

3/4 cup sour cream (full fat)

2 Tbsp chives, chopped

1. Using a meat hammer, beat out each pork cutlet until 1/4 - 1/8 inch thick. If you don't have a meat hammer, you can try using a rolling pin or the side of a sturdy mason jar. Cut slits in the fatty sides of the cutlet in order to prevent curling while cooking.

2. In three shallow bowls, set up your dredging station. Season each with salt and add paprika to your bread crumbs. Dredge first in flour, then egg, and finally in panko bread crumbs. I like to get all of my cutlets breaded before I begin frying, but you may wish to do steps 2 and 3 simultaneously.

3. In a straight-sided saute pan, heat your oil to 350 degrees. I use a 9" pan, but if yours is larger (or smaller), use enough oil that it coats the bottom of the pan well and has the slightest bit of depth. Fry each cutlet until golden brown on both sides. Do not overcrowd your pan. Each cutlet will only take 3-4 minutes per side to cook, as they are so thin. If you are cooking for a larger crowd and increasing this recipe, keep your cutlets warm in a 250 degree oven, but I advise to keep your batches relatively small so that you don't have to do this-- it will keep your cutlets crispy, but may also dry them out. Season each cutlet with salt as you take it out of the hot oil.

4. Once finished, there will probably be tasty bits left behind in the pan. Deglaze with your chicken stock or water and scrape any bits off the surface off of your pan. Once reduced for 30 seconds or so, add in your sour cream. Stir in chives and season with salt, to taste. Heat and thicken, but do not boil.

Serve warm, perhaps with lemon wedges. Serves 4-8 at 1-2 cutlets per person.

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