A couple of months ago, I did my first poll, and I had two requests in the “Other” category, one for a German dish called Jäger Schnitzel and the other for “something meaty with a kick for autumn.” While I have another recipe in mind for the latter, the Jäger Schnitzel may fulfill both requests for the time being.
I was familiar with Wiener Schnitzel — my German aunt would fix it sometimes, and there are also many who posit that Chicken Fried Steak is a Southern adaptation of Schnitzel — but had never heard of Jäger Schnitzel until it popped up in my poll request. As handy, dandy Wikipedia tells us:
In German speaking countries the term Schnitzel means escalopes in general, not only bread crumbed fried escalopes.
And German Food Guide tells us:
A Wiener Schnitzel is a breaded veal cutlet. It is dipped in flour, egg, and bread crumbs, then fried in butter or oil to a golden brown. It is traditionally served with a lemon wedge, which you can use to drizzle fresh lemon juice over the schnitzel.
A note to those who are not so familiar with German cuisine … if you are in a German restaurant and do not know what to select off the menu, start with a Wiener Schnitzel. You will not be let down. It is delicious!
Jäger -Schnitzel: This is a veal or pork schnitzel topped with a burgundy-mushroom or a creamy-mushroom sauce. Traditionally, this schnitzel is prepared without flour, egg, and bread crumb coatings. However, you will often find a breaded schnitzel (made according to the Wiener Schnitzel method – “Wiener Art”) topped with the sauce.
Armed with this bit of background, I began Googling recipes for inspiration. As with most iconic dishes, there are numerous variations. After reviewing several recipes, I reached the following conclusions and subsequent decisions:
- For best flavor and authenticity, the recipe should include fresh mushrooms — a generous 8 ounces (1/2 pound) of fresh mushrooms for every four servings.
- I would make mine from lean, boneless pork chops (I had some in my freezer, bought on sale, of course!).
- To reduce the amount of fat needed, I would cook the dish in my non-stick skillet.
- Although breading is optional (or considered not traditional), I decided to lightly bread it to help ensure crispness and also to help the thicken the sauce a bit more. (As with chicken fried steak, one of the joys of this dish is the crisp tenderness of the steak — the schnitzel — in contrast with the sauce.)
- I chose to use white wine in the sauce, because I felt it would complement the pork better.
- For a more flavorful gravy that would take full advantage of the fond (the flavorful bits rendered in your pan when you’ve fried, baked, sauteed, or roasted meats and/or vegetables), I opted to make my schnitzel first, then keep it warm on a platter while making the gravy in the same skillet where I’d cooked the schnitzel (this also saves from having another skillet to wash, or from having to wash the skillet in-between making the sauce and the schnitzel). This means I didn’t have a cream white gravy. If having a cream white gravy is important to you, then make the sauce in a separate pan.
- In the variations I reviewed, the sauce traditionally contains cream or even sour cream, which would give a bit of a Stroganoff feel to it. To help keep things on the lighter side (and also more affordable), I opted to use 2% evaporated milk in place of the cream.
- Many Jägerschnitzel recipes include bacon and use the rendered bacon fat in lieu of oil for frying the Schnitzel. While I opted not to go that route (for one thing, I didn’t have pork bacon on hand, and for another, I thought it might make the dish a bit too rich for our tastes), if you’re a bacon lover, by all means, you could start things out by frying up 4 or 6 slices of bacon (or do up 8 slices so you can snack on a couple while cooking the rest of the meal LOL!); then use a tablespoon or so of the rendered bacon fat to cook the Schnitzel in; and for the crowning touch, garnish each serving with crumbled bacon on top.
In the end, I chose the recipe linked below as my basic guide, tweaking it and incorporating my conclusions and own touches to make it my own:
This is not a difficult recipe to make, but it does take some time. It takes a bit of time to clean and slice the mushrooms — and trust me, it’s easier to clean a whole mushroom and then slice it than to try and clean pre-sliced mushrooms! — and it takes some time to pound the chops thin, but I find this process to be a lovely stress reliever, as I do kneading bread. (Pounding the meat thin allows it to cook up quickly and get crisp without drying out or burning.)
Me, I say find something entertaining to watch on the TV (I have a TV in my kitchen) or turn on some good music, pour yourself a glass of wine, and enjoy the preparation process.
Jäger Schnitzel is traditionally served with potatoes — typically mashed — but as we’d had potatoes recently, I opted to enjoy ours with some egg noodles. Rice would also be tasty with this dish. I rounded the meal out with kale from our keyhole garden.
So the next time you’re craving a plate of comforting food, pour yourself a glass of wine and give Jäger Schnitzel a go! It smells — and tastes! — so yummy, you’ll likely find yourself singing “The Schnitzel Song.” (Go ahead, take 126 seconds from your day and give it a listen — it’s cute!)
Jäger Schnitzel, Country Style (Serves 4; easy to adjust up or down)
- 1 to 1 1/4 pounds lean, boneless pork chops (see Note 1)
- 8 ounces fresh mushrooms (see Note 2)
- 1/2 medium to 1 whole small onion, sliced (or use shallots, if you prefer)
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup or so (eyeball it) of chicken stock, beef stock, or some of both (adding some beef stock will yield a richer flavor)
- 1/2 cup or so of white wine (eyeball it)
- 1/2 cup or so of 2% evaporated milk (eyeball it)
- Oil (tablespoon or so) and butter (about 1 tablespoon of butter)
- All-purpose flour (around 1/4 cup or so total)
- Salt and coarse-ground black pepper to taste
- Hint of cayenne (red pepper) to taste
- Parsley to taste (use fresh or dried; I didn’t have fresh so I used dried)
NOTE 1: You can use lean, boneless pork chops and pound or slice chops from a pork loin roast. If you don’t eat pork, you could substitute boneless, skinless chicken breast or turkey. See also the comments above regarding adding bacon to the recipe.
NOTE 2: Fresh mushrooms can typically be purchased whole or pre-sliced. While you might be tempted to purchase the pre-sliced mushrooms as a time-saver, if you read the package labeling, you will likely see that the pre-sliced mushrooms will still have to be cleaned before serving. Trust me, cleaning a whole mushroom and then slicing it is WAY easier than trying to clean mushroom slices!! I used the affordable, readily available plain white mushroom, but you can use virtually any variety of mushroom you would like. However, I’d recommend shying away from powerfully flavored mushrooms, as the mushrooms are to serve as a complement to the dish, not as its main component.
- Clean and slice mushrooms. (To clean mushrooms, either rinse quickly — do NOT soak — under running water and then wipe with a paper towel, or wipe each mushroom with a damp paper towel). Slice onion or shallot.
- Place meat on a sheet of cling wrap or waxed paper. Cover with another sheet of cling wrap or waxed paper.
- Using a meat mallet, pound the meat into thin (1/4″ or 3/16″) cutlets. (You don’t want the meat so thin that doesn’t hold together.) I find this part to be very cathartic. If you don’t have a meat mallet, use bottom of a small, heavy skillet.
- In a shallow bowl or plate (I used a wax-coated rimmed paper plate), mix together 3 or 4 tablespoons of flower (I eyeballed it), a touch of salt, a bit of coarse ground black pepper, and a whisper of cayenne (red) pepper.
- Over medium-high, heat a just enough oil (canola or olive oil) in the bottom of a large (12″) non-stick skillet to coat the bottom of the skillet (a tablespoon or so should do it). Once the skillet and oil are hot, dredge each cutlet in the flour mixture and place in the skillet. Cook, uncovered, over medium to medium-high heat until coating is crisped and browned, turning once, typically 3 to 5 minutes per side. (Note: A “spatter lid” or “splatter lid” will minimize any messes on your range top.)
- Remove skillet from heat. Place schnitzel on a platter and set aside to keep warm. (I turned our oven on to the “warm” setting and placed the platter in there.)
- In the same skillet where you cooked the schnitzel, add a tablespoon of butter. Over medium to medium-low heat, sauté onion just until it begins to soften. Then, add in sliced mushrooms and cook mushrooms until softened. (You may want to place the lid onto your skillet during part of this process, which will add a bit of steam that helps cook the vegetables and also helps loosen up some of the fond in the skillet.)
- Turn the heat up to medium-high. Deglaze the pan with the white wine (the wine will also help you loosen up any remaining tasty bits of fond in the pan). Stir in the broth and simmer for a few minutes, stirring as needed. Add in the evaporated milk, bring to a low boil, and simmer for several minutes, stirring as needed to prevent sticking/ scorching. Mix together a couple of tablespoons of flour and a couple or three tablespoons of water until smooth. Stirring constantly and vigorously to prevent lumps, pour the flour-water slurry into the boiling liquid and boil, stirring constantly, for at least two minutes. (Remember, this will thicken as it stands.) Stir in parsley to taste. (NOTE: I used the seasoned flour leftover from breading the cutlets and shook it all up in a small, lidded jar I have reserved just for this purpose. Using the seasoned flour gave the sauce a bit of bite from the coarse ground black pepper and the hint of cayenne; if you want a milder sauce, use plain, unseasoned flour.)
- Plate each serving, adding desired amount of sauce. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers.