German Pork Schnitzel with Sauerkraut
In less than an hour, you can make this hearty supper brimming with Old World flavor.
Many years ago, my mom and I took a day trip from St. Louis to Hermann, Missouri. Just 90 minutes west of the city, Hermann is noted for its wineries and German history.
Mom and I were browsing through one of the many shops in this quaint small town when she came across a T-shirt and said with a laugh, “I have to get this for your Dad.” It was a simple white knit shirt with blocked black letters that read: You can always tell a German, but you can’t tell him much.”
I don’t remember Dad as being a particularly stubborn man; although he was pretty adamant about me not keeping the kitten I tried to smuggle into the house when I was 15 years old. But Mom thought the shirt apropos, so we brought it home to Dad, who wore the garment for many years.
Our family was aware of our German heritage (my DNA is a mixture of mostly German and a tiny bit of Welsh from Dad’s side with Austrian/Hungarian from Mom’s people), but it’s not like we flew the German flag along with the Stars and Stripes on the front lawn. He owned no albums of polka music (thank goodness). But we connected to our ancestors through food, and for special meals—like Dad’s birthday—a German menu would be offered.
I think our DNA is somehow wired into the portion of our brain that controls comfort food cravings. An article in Medical News Today suggests that memory and emotions play a definite role in our food cravings.
I was fortunate to visit Germany during my time as a travel writer and editor and remember feeling a sense of familiarity in the country, despite my obvious language barrier. Maybe that’s why in September leading up to Oct. 3, (my Dad’s birthday), I start to get a taste for some German comfort food, like Schnitzel.
In America, Schnitzel is closely associated with Wienerschnitzel, but it’s not the same thing. Wiernerschnitzel is a geographically protected term in Germany and Austria and can only be made with veal. The traditional German pork schnitzel is usually served with a wedge of lemon and a sprig of parsley, but variations can include different sauces (such as the dill cream sauce in my recipe).
The term schnitzel refers to the thin cut of meat (sniz or slice), which is usually tenderized, breaded and fried. Dozens of countries have a similar version of schnitzel, including the Southern U.S. staple of chicken-fried steak.
German schnitzel is wonderful with a side of buttered noodles, warm German potato salad
or tangy sauerkraut. It’s one of the quicker German dishes to prepare; you could have this to the table in about half an hour for a satisfying weeknight supper. Mahlzeit!
Pork Schnitzel with Sauerkraut
2 4-ounce cubed pork cutlets
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 ¼ tablespoons Panko bread crumbs
1 ½ teaspoons seasoned salt
2 ½ tablespoons of reserved bacon fat for frying; or use vegetable oil if you don’t have the bacon fat
Ingredients (for sauerkraut):
2-pound bag of sauerkraut
½ sliced red onion (or use yellow if you don’t have red; just nice to have the pink color in dish)
1 teaspoon caraway seed
1 tablespoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon bacon fat to cook onion in (or use unsalted butter)
Ingredients for dill sauce:
(It’s perfectly fine to serve the schnitzel with traditional lemon and parsley. However this is the basic white sauce with added dill and tang of apple cider vinegar)
1 tablespoon each butter and flour
1 ¼ cups warm milk
1 teaspoon fresh dill (use a bit less if using dry herb)
½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1. Mix together 3 tablespoons flour, the Panko bread crumbs and seasoning salt. Spring each pork cutlet with salt and pepper and spray both sides lightly with cooking spray. Dredge cutlets in flour/bread crumb mixture.
2. In a large skillet, melt 2 ½ tablespoons of bacon fat (or add the oil) over medium heat. When pan is hot, add breaded cutlets. Brown four minutes on each side, remove pork from skillet and set aside. Take skillet off heat for now.
3. Slice onion. In a 6-quart stock pan, melt ½ teaspoon bacon fat over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent (you don’t want to brown these).
4. Add the sauerkraut, caraway seed and brown sugar. Bring pot of kraut to a hard simmer (near boiling) and then turn down to low heat, cover and gently simmer for about 20-25 minutes.
5. Put the skillet back on the stove, wipe out any browned bits from the schnitzel. Pour the milk into a small sauce pan and gently warm just until you see tiny bubbles start to form on the side. Turn off heat.
6. Turn the heat to medium under the skillet, add butter until it melts. Whisk in the flour a cook for about a 45 to 60 seconds, just so the raw flour taste is removed. Slowly add the warm milk and keep whisking to keep sauce smooth. Incorporate all the milk and then add dill, salt and pepper. When sauce is thickened, turn off heat and whisk in the vinegar. Set aside until ready to plate. YIELD: Two servings with extra kraut for another day!