While Bourdain was in Cologne, he ate one of Germany’s most famous foods. He described schnitzel as “surfboard-sized slabs of veal and pork filled with many wonderful things, dredged in breadcrumbs and fried in magical, magical deep fat.” Schnitzel is served throughout Germany and Austria. It is often said to be a Viennese dish, but in truth schnitzel did not originate in either country. Its storied past dates all the way back to the Byzantine Empire. I must say, though, that the Germans and Austrians have perfected their versions of this breaded meat.

My family is originally from Worms, which is about two and a half hours south along the Rhein—Rhine in English—from Cologne.

Like many Europeans, my great-great-grandmother traveled through Ellis Island in about 1885. Instead of staying on the East Coast, she moved to Michigan and then on to California. Oktoberfest in most metropolitan cities is watered down from the European version, and yet there aren’t many other German cultural activities in America.

This recipe from my grandmother isn’t very traditional. Typically, schnitzel is made with breadcrumbs, but my grandma prefers flour. There are two different gravies here, because sometimes she likes a brown gravy, which is more “traditional,” and sometimes she makes a white “country” gravy. Unless you want two gravies—which, hey, no judgment—you should only make one.

So we’re going to call this a German-American recipe, because, like Oktoberfest and a lot of German culture in America, it only slightly resembles its lineage.

Ingredients:

(serves 4)

Schnitzel

2 pounds veal or pork cutlets
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon paprika
2 eggs
⅛–¼ cup vegetable oil

White “Country“ Gravy

Skillet drippings
¼ cup leftover flour mixture
3 cups milk

Brown Mushroom Gravy

4 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil
2 cups mushrooms, thinly sliced
¼ cup flour
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
¼ cup dry white wine (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

Schnitzel
  1. Pound cutlets into a very thin sheet and set aside. Mix together flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika.
  2. Dip pounded cutlets in egg. Then dip cutlets in flour mixture.
  3. In a skillet, heat oil until medium hot. Fry cutlets in oil until done, about 3 minutes on each side.
White Gravy
  1. Stir several tablespoons of flour mixture in skillet drippings. Add oil if needed to make a roux.
  2. Simmer for several minutes to cook flour.
  3. Add milk to make a gravy and cook slowly. Stir to prevent lumps.
Brown Gravy
  1. Sauté mushrooms in butter until brown, about 5 minutes.
  2. Stir in flour and cook 2 minutes to make a roux. Stir in broth and cook over low heat about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Make sure to scrape bits off bottom of pan. Correct seasoning to taste.
  3. Serve over egg noodles, spaetzle, or boiled small red potatoes. You can also serve it with pickled beets.

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