This recipe is featured in Tina Wasserman's newest book, Entrée to Judaism for Families, filled with tools to help children learn to cook with confidence, with clear, step-by-step instructions for every recipe and tips for adults to make the experience safe and rewarding.
Schnitzel is a very popular preparation served on Shabbat around the world. Its origins are Austrian, and it refers to any meat, pounded thin, coated with some breading, and then pan-fried. The origin of this dish can, again, be traced back to the Arab influence on Jewish cooking in Spain (Jews coated fish with flour or breading and fried it in oil). Expelled Spanish Jews brought this technique to Northern Italy, where veal was substituted for the fish (food dipped in egg and then in seasoned breadcrumbs always has the adjective “Milanese”).
The Hapsburg Empire ruled Milan and Northern Italy from the early 1700s to the mid-1800s, and their chefs learned many cooking techniques from the Italians. This particular technique gained great favor in Vienna, and the breaded chop transformed into a flattened cutlet. Schnitzel in German means “cutlet,” and so a culinary tradition was born.
- Remove the fillet from the chicken breast. Place the chicken breast smooth side down on a cutting board. Cover the chicken with a plastic storage bag, and using a meat mallet or a rolling pin, pound until the breast is about ¼-inch thick. If the pieces are large, cut them to be around 3–4 inches wide.
- Place the flour (or matzah cake meal) on a plate. Set aside.
- Mix the egg with the water in a shallow soup bowl. Set aside.
- Combine the panko bread crumbs (or matzah meal) with the salt, pepper, and garlic powder on a plate. Set aside.
- Coat the chicken with flour, dip in the egg, and then coat well with the seasoned crumbs.
- Heat a 10-inch nonstick frying pan over high heat for 15 seconds. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and heat for another 10 seconds. Reduce the temperature to medium if the oil is smoking and too hot.
- Place a few pieces of chicken in the pan. Cook for 2 minutes or until the underside is golden. Turn the chicken over using a turner or tongs, and continue to cook for another 2–3 minutes until golden.
Note: Serve plain or topped with Marinara sauce.
- On a map, trace the route of the breaded cutlet from the Middle East to North Africa to Spain to Italy to Austria to Israel and North America.
- Do you know any other foods that have traveled so far? Pasta? Ice cream? Search the Internet for some clues.
- Frying in olive oil serves two purposes, especially when cooking with children. First, it contains no water like margarine and therefore will not splatter. Second, it has a higher smoking point than other oils typically used for frying, so meat can be cooked fast and breadcrumbs won’t burn in that short time.
- Chicken does not need to be tenderized, so do not use the spiked side of a meat mallet, especially with children.
- Old recipes called for waxed paper for pounding meat, but a plastic bag won’t rip or embed particles of paper or plastic in your food.
- Another advantage of pounding the cutlets is that each cutlet can be cut in half or thirds or even in strips so that the portion size is appropriate for children.