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Schnitzel and Spaetzle

Classic Wiener schnitzel features a thin, tender veal cutlet coated in ultrafine breadcrumbs and then fried until puffy and golden brown. To avoid the high price of veal, I substituted pork cutlets with a crisp, wrinkled, puffy coating that is Wiener schnitzel's signature.

Schnitzel is breaded with the usual flour, egg, and bread-crumb sequence of coatings, but a little vegetable oil added to the egg helped separate the coating from the meat. With good Schnitzel, you should be able to slide a knife between the meat and the coating.

The name spaetzle is German for "little sparrow," which is what the shape of these tiny noodles resemble. Think of them as a homemade egg noodle and serve them as a side dish—tossed with melted butter or a creamy sauce. Don't be intimidated by this homemade noodle, the batter is mixed easily and rests for a while. While the finished dish may seem delicate and sophisticated, these are quite easy to make. There are spaetzle makers on Amazon for as little as $13, but I am certainly not running out to buy a new kitchen gadget for one recipe when I can substitute a metal colander with good results.

Ingredients for Spaetzle

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 large eggs

1/4 cup milk

2 tablespoons butter

Ingredients for Pork Schnitzel

4 boneless pork loin chops (about 5-6 ounces each) or 1 pork tenderloin (1 1/4 pounds) trimmed of fat and cut on an angle into 4 equal parts

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Kosher salt and black pepper

2 large eggs

2 cups plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 cups plain dried breadcrumbs

Garnishes: Sprigs of fresh thyme, lemon, 2 tablespoons of capers, drained

Make spaetzle dough

In a large bowl, beat eggs, milk, and seasonings. Stir in flour to form a smooth but thick batter; let rest for at least 10 minutes.

Mise in place

Process dry breadcrumbs in a food processor until you have very fine crumbs, about 45 seconds. Transfer bread crumbs to a shallow dish and season with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Spread flour in second shallow dish and season with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Beat eggs with 1 tablespoon oil in the third shallow dish.

Prep meat

Place pork, between 2 sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap and gently pound with the flat side of a meat tenderizer until you get an even thickness between 1/8 and 1/4 inch.

Season cutlets lightly with salt and pepper. Working with one cutlet at a time, dredge thoroughly in flour, shaking off excess, then coat with egg mixture, allowing excess to drip back into the dish to ensure a very thin coating, and then coat evenly with breadcrumbs, pressing on crumbs to adhere. Place breaded cutlets in a single layer on wire rack set over a baking sheet and refrigerate, uncovered, for 10 to 12 minutes to allow the coating to dry out a little and adhere to the pork.

Cook spaetzle

Bring 3 quarts of salted water to a boil in a large pot, then reduce to a simmer. To form the spaetzle, hold a large holed colander over the simmering water and spoon a portion of the batter into the colander and push the dough through the holes with a spatula.

It is best to choose a colander and pot that are similar in size so the colander can rest on the side of the pot.

As the drips of batter fall through the colander and into the simmering water, they sink to the bottom, then float to the surface as they cook. Stir the water gently to prevent sticking.

With a slotted spoon, transfer spaetzle that has floated to the surface of the water, to a bowl and toss with a tablespoon of butter.

Continue cooking the spaetzle in batches with remaining batter.

When all the spaetzle has cooked, add them to a large skillet over medium heat, tossing to coat with butter. Cook the spaetzle for 1 to 2 minutes to give the noodles some color, and then sprinkle with chopped chives. Taste and add salt and pepper, turn off heat and cover until ready to serve.

Cook meat

Instead of sautéing the cutlets, cook them in a Dutch oven in an inch of very hot oil, shaking the pot to get some of the oil over the top of the meat. The extra heat quickly solidifies the egg in the coating, so that the steam from the meat couldn’t escape and puff the surface instead. The cutlets absorb very little oil.

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until it registers 375 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Add the thyme sprig and let it fry for about a minute to infuse the oil. Remove the thyme sprig and reserve. Gently lay two cutlets, without overlapping, in the pan and cook, shaking pan continuously and gently, until cutlets are wrinkled and light golden brown on both sides, 1 to 2 minutes per side.

Remove to a paper towel-lined plate and flip cutlets several times to blot excess oil. Season with salt and transfer to a serving platter while still hot.

Bon appetite you may eat

Serve Schnitzel and Spaetzle garnished with lemon wedges, fried thyme, and capers.

For the kiddos, I leave off all garnishes, and they love this meal.

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