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Eric Akis: Get a taste of Germany with schnitzel and spaetzle

Schnitzel served with a hearty mushroom sauce and fresh German dumplings makes for a hearty — and tasty — meal for two.
Jagerschnitzel is made by topping a fried schnitzel with rich mushroom sauce. ERIC AKIS

During the pandemic, with many couples hunkered down at home, I’ve been receiving many requests for recipes that serve two. I’ve happily obliged and done so again today with ones that will create a hearty and pleasing European-style meal of jagerschnitzel and spaetzle.

According to The New Food Lover’s Companion, schnitzel is the German word for cutlet. To make schnitzel, of course, that cutlet, which could be pork, veal or other light meat, is thinly sliced or pounded until very thin, seasoned, breaded and fried until golden and delicious.

As noted in a past story on schnitzel, once cooked and plated, it can be simply served with a slice or wedge of lemon for squeezing, or be dressed with a topping or sauce. In today’s for recipe for jagerschnitzel, which in German means “hunter’s cutlet,” I’ve done the later by topping the schnitzel with rich mushroom sauce.

I’ve seen jagerschnitzel served with mashed potatoes, boiled potatoes, egg noodles and even French fries, all things that work well with the sauce and meat. I’ve also seen it served with spaetzle, what I did.

Spaetzle is a German-style, very small type of dumpling. You can buy bags of dry, ready to cook spaetzle at some food stores, but it’s fairly easy to make myself, what I did.

You begin by making a thick batter. Once that’s done you push the batter through a small holed implement into simmering water, creating small dumplings that float to the surface when cooked. The spaetzle are then drained, and then cooked in butter until golden.

You can, of course, use a spaetzle maker to make spaetzle. It’s a press, or holed round or rectangular implement, specifically designed to make spaetzle sold at kitchenware stores. If you don’t have spaetzle maker, you can also use another holed implement to make spaetzle, such as the flat coarse grater that I used.

You can serve the jagerschnitzel and spaetzle with a vegetable, such as steamed green beans, or braised red cabbage.

Jagerschnitzel for Two

Thin pieces of pork, coated in breadcrumbs, fried until golden, plated, and topped with a rich mushroom sauce.

Preparation time: 45 minutes

Cooking time: about 20 minutes

Makes: two servings

For the sauce

2 Tbsp butter

8 small to medium white mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 Tbsp finely chopped shallot

1/2 tsp minced fresh garlic

1 Tbsp all-purpose flour

1 tsp tomato paste

• pinch dried thyme

1/4 cup red wine

3/4 cup beef stock

• salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the schnitzel

1 large egg

2 Tbsp milk

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs

2 (about 5 ounce/140 gram) boneless pork leg cutlets, boneless pork loin chops, or boneless pork sirloin chops (see Eric’s options)

• salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

• vegetable oil

To make sauce, melt butter in a small- to medium-sized pot set over medium, medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, shallots and garlic and cook until tender, about five to six minutes. Mix in 2 Tbsp flour, tomato paste and thyme and cook one to two minutes more. Slowly, stirring steadily, mix in the wine. When mixture is very thick, slowly mix in the stock. Bring sauce to a simmer and cook until lightly thickened, about three to four minutes. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. Remove sauce from the heat and set aside until needed (see Eric options).

To make the schnitzel, place egg in a wide, shallow bowl or pieplate and beat well. Mix in the milk. Place the flour and breadcrumbs on separate, wide plates. Set out a baking sheet.

Put a piece of parchment paper on a cutting board. Set a piece of the pork in the centre of the paper. Cover with a double layer of plastic wrap. Using a kitchen hammer, pound the pork until very thin, about 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick, and then set on a plate. Pound the other piece of pork in this fashion.

Season the pork with salt and pepper. Coat one of the pieces of pork in flour, shaking off the excess. Dip it in the egg mixture; making sure it’s evenly covered. Now coat pork in the breadcrumbs. Set the coated schnitzel on the baking sheet. Coat the second piece of pork in this fashion.

Pour 1/8-inch of oil into a large skillet (mine was 12-inches wide) and set over medium, medium-high heat (see Eric’s options). When oil is hot, set the schnitzels in the skillet and cook until golden and cooked through, about three minutes per side. While schnitzels cook, return the sauce to a simmer.

When cooked, drain the schnitzels on paper towel and then set one on each of two dinner plates. Top each schnitzel with sauce and serve.

Eric’s options: You can make the sauce many hours before needed. Once cooled to room temperature, cover and refrigerate until ready to reheat and served with the schnitzel. You can coat the schnitzels many hours before cooking them. Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook. If you don’t have a very large skillet, cook the schnitzel in two smaller skillets, or cook them on a large electric griddle or stovetop one. Instead of pork, make the schnitzel with veal or turkey cutlets.

Spaetzle for Two

German-style, mini dumplings cooked until golden in butter. Serve as a side dish for the jagerschnitzels.

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: about five minutes

Makes: two servings

1/4 cup milk

1 large egg

1/4 tsp salt, plus some for the pot

• pinch ground nutmeg and ground white pepper

3/4 cup + 1 Tbsp all purpose flour

2 Tbsp soft butter, plus some for the dish

1 to 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley or thinly sliced green onion

Place milk, egg, 1/4 tsp salt, nutmeg and white pepper in a medium bowl and beat well to combine. Mix in the flour with a spatula until a smooth, very thick batter is created.

Let batter rest while you bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a simmer (my pot was 8-inches wide, and 6-inches tall). Lightly grease the bottom of a 13- x 9- inch dish with soft butter.

When water is simmering, set a spaetzle maker, flat coarse grater, or colander with large holes, on top of the pot. With a spatula, firmly push the batter through the holes on the spaetzle maker (or grater or colander), creating small strands of dough that fall into the simmering water below. Stir gently to prevent sticking. When the spaetzle float to surface and have cooked one minute or so, use a slotted spoon to lift the spaetzle out of the pot and into the buttered dish. (Spaetzle can be made to this point an hour or so before needed. Once cooled, cover and keep at room temperature until ready to serve.)

To serve, place the 2 Tbsp butter in a large skillet set over medium heat. When butter is melted and no longer foaming, add the spaetzle and cook and stir until hot and golden, about two to three minutes. Mix in the parsley (or green onion) and serve.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.