Escalope, Schnitzel; a style of cooking that originated in two different countries in Europe, centuries ago, but in essence are the same. It is the art of thinning the meat with a rolling pin or a mallet, coating in breadcrumbs and finally lightly pan-frying. Historically, research has determined that the term escalope entered the cooking terminology in the late 17th century in rural France, whereas schnitzel appeared during the 15th or 16th century in Austria. Another common factor in both these cooking techniques is that they were predominantly used for cooking veal, hence the popularity of Wiener Schitzels and Veau à l’Escalopes has soared worldwide today.
My first foray into this cooking arena was courtesy my brother in law, who I can safely say makes the best Wiener Schnitzels, crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside. In fact, funnily enough we were discussing the recipe over text messaging while he was in the labor room during my sister’s delivery. The idea behind thinning the meat is so that it cooks as fast as the layer of breadcrumbs that coat it. Leave the meat to its original thickness and the breadcrumbs are likely to char by the time the meat cooks from inside. For my recipe, I used chicken accompanied by a piquant marinara sauce and to complete the flavors of the dish, a side of roasted garlic potatoes.
For the chicken:
- 500g chicken breasts
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup flour
- 2 tbsp milk
- 1 lemon
For the Potatoes:
- 4-5 medium sized potatoes
- 2 tbsp garlic paste
- Olive oil
- 1/2 tbsp sea salt
- Few sprigs of rosemary
For the Sauce:
- 2 medium sized tomatoes
- 1/2 cup chopped onions
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- Few bay leaves
- 1 tsp red chilli powder
- 2 tsp paprika powder
- 1 lemon
- For the Chicken: Place the chicken breasts between two sheets of cling film and beat with a mallet or rolling pin, till it reduced to at least half its size. The thickness of the chicken should not be more than 1 inch.
- Coat the chicken in lemon juice and set aside
- Meanwhile, beat the egg with milk and spread out the breadcrumbs on a chopping board
- Finally add the salt and pepper to the flour and place on a separate plate
- Heat a tbsp of oil in a pan
- Take the chicken breast, dip in into the flour, shake off the excess, soak it in the egg mixture and then cover thoroughly with the breadcrumbs
- Repeat with the rest of the chicken breasts
- Place them in the pan and lightly fry on each side for about 3 minutes or till golden brown, turning over just once.
- Once cooked, put them on a kitchen towel to soak the excess oil
- For the Potatoes: Dice the potatoes into rough squares. Cover in garlic paste
- Place them on a baking tray, sprinkle with olive oil, sea salt and rosemary. Coat thoroughly
- Put the tray into a pre-heated oven for about 40 minutes or till golden brown round the edges
- Remove from the oven when done and keep covered till ready to serve
- For the Sauce: Heat oil in a pan and add the onions and garlic
- Cook till the garlic and onions turn pale brown
- Add the chopped tomatoes, spices,bay leaves, lemon juice and tomato paste. Stir thoroughly to break the tomatoes down to a paste. Let the sauce simmer for about 30 minutes till the tomatoes have completely dissolved.
- Remove the bay leaves and serve.
Serve with lemon wedges and right before you cut into your escalope squeeze lemon juice over it generously. If cooked right, you should feel the crunch of the breadcrumbs and the tenderness of the chicken meat. Needless to say, you do not have to stick to chicken to enjoy this recipe, you can use any meat of your choice. A well rounded recipe with the slightly spicy sauce and flavored potatoes. Each component has its own subtle flavors so as to complete the dish as a whole rather than overpower each other. Kick off the holidays with a recipe for your family and friends to enjoy.