Austria. Birthplace of Mozart, Marie-Antoinette, Freud, and wiener schnitzel. Austria was supposed to be the redemption of spaetzle. It was to be my grand renaissance of dough-based side dishes. Alas, I have a cold and that spaetzle was not to be. To be honest, I only cooked the pork tonight because I was worried it was about to turn. However, I feel like as our Austrian meal did not end in the assassination of a duke and the end of an empire, it wasn’t too bad, all things considered.
On tonight’s plate:
Not-exactly-spaetzle (my own recipe)
(Full disclosure: I didn’t really follow the recipes above and rather used them as a jumping off place. They are great recipes, though, and definitely worth a look.)
Schnitzel is a good thing to make if you have some aggression/energy to get out, since it involves whacking meat until it is nice and thin. For some insane reason I don’t own a mallet to do this with. Obviously something that needs to be corrected! Instead, I used my rolling pin and whacked away until my pork loins were about 1/4 inch thick.
Instead of using premade breadcrumbs (which taste basically like sand) I used my food processor to make my own breadcrumbs from a bag of 75% off stuffing mix (the real stuff, not Stauffers) that I bought following a stroke of brilliance. Well seasoned, these actually tasted like a food product and not grit. I used about half the bag, or two cups of croutons.
Then for the dredging. When I was engaged, one of the things on my registry was this breading set. NO ONE BOUGHT IT FOR ME. RUDE. Somehow, I made due. Once the pork cutlets had been floured, egged, and crumbed, they went to the fridge to chill out for an hour. I used this time to watch an episode of Chopped.
About 20 minutes before the pork was to come out of the fridge, I set to work on my not-exactly-spaetzle. What I wanted was the flavors that I associate with spaetzle – the cheesy oniony yumminess – but not the hassle of making the dough. So, I decided to roast some thin sliced potatoes and serve them with caramelized onions and gruyere. GENIUS.
After peeling, I sliced the potatoes (golden new potatoes) thinly on my mandolin – the second thinnest setting. These were tossed with olive oil and salt and then went into a 425 degree oven on a cookie sheet (one layer) for about 25 minutes.
Now to the onions. I believe that I have spoken about caramelized onions before, but I will repeat just in case you went listening. THESE TAKE TIME. You cannot throw them into a hot pan and expect them to be done in 10 minutes. Good caramelized onions take AT LEAST 30 MINUTES. This is how you need to cook them:
Step one: Finely dice one large onion.
Step two: Melt a generous amount (like 3 tablespoons) of butter in a pan on medium heat. Once it is nice and melty, add the onions and some salt.
Step three: Be patient. Cook the onions in the butter until they are translucent. This will take awhile. Stir frequently.
Step four: When the onions start to color, add more butter (YES), a bit of sugar, and raise the heat SLIGHTLY.
Step five: Continue to stir as the onions begin to caramelize. Keep a sharp eye on the onions – you want them to be turning brown, not black. Adjust heat as necessary.
Step six: Remove from heat.
Step seven: Pat yourself on the back for making something amazing.
In addition to the onions, I shredded about half a cup of gruyere. When the potatoes came out of the onion (just slightly crispy, with some good color), I mixed them with the onions and the cheese and then put it back into the oven (turned off) to let the cheese melt for a few minutes.
Um, hello heaven:
While this was happening, I was also making the bacon for the green beans, since speck wasn’t something I had located. (To be honest, I didn’t try.) Get the bacon nice and crispy. Save the rendered fat.
Now, in the recipe above, it instructs you to just boil the beans and then add bacon. I did a few more things. MORE DELICIOUS THINGS. First of all, after the beans were cooked (I actually used the microwave — put the beans in a microwave safe bowl with above an inch of water and cook for about 5 minutes or until done), I added them back into the bacon pan with more butter and salt and gave them a toss. Then I added the bacon. Bacon makes everything better. This maybe took me an extra two minutes of time, and it was worth it, if you like butter and salt. I do.
Back to the meat (hehe) of the dish, the schnitzel. After they came out of the fridge, they went into a hot pan with some oil. About 4 minutes on each side and they were nice and crunchy and golden.
I did mine in two batches. I probably should of changed the oil in between, but oh well. It’s a miracle I was even cooking at all.
These were good, but desperately needed some kind of sauce. I liked the crunch of the breading (I really think chilling it, which I’ve never done before with anything breaded, helped a lot with keeping the breading on) and the flavor of the pork was good – but it just needed a little something extra. The potatoes were heaven and the beans were green beans with bacon. This was definitely a hearty sort of meal, but good. Normally we don’t eat pork much, but I think this would work just as well for chicken. All in all, a good meal.
Next week, we leave Europe for Barbados. I have a feeling it will be entirely different.*
* a note on the order of recipes: last year, we cooked in order (roughly) of population. This year, I picked a country from A-Z, so we will be doing 26 entries this year. Maybe more, if we get a real head of steam.