Schnitzel is the one dish my Vienna-born father knows how to make (a dazzling tableside-prepared Caesar salad excepted). Once a year throughout my childhood, he would “give Mama the night off,” tuck a dishtowel at his waist, and begin pounding and breading and frying with abandon. He was oblivious to the toll it took on “Mama’s next day,” which she spent hosing down the grease-spattered cabinets, and imagining herself at some seaside cottage for all the breadcrumbs on our Brooklyn kitchen floor.
But the schnitzel was delicious. Tender veal, impossibly thin, shatteringly crisp, and hanging off the sides of our plates, as good schnitzel should.
Fortunately, it doesn’t take an Austrian import in the family to revel in the joys of schnitzel. It doesn’t even take veal. The meat of your liking and something to whack it with will do. Pork works splendidly, but chicken does too, the dish arguably originating not in Austria at all, but in Milan.
You’ll need crumbs for dredging and oil for frying, but little more. Lemon for squeezing is not essential but strongly recommended. Haute cuisine it’s not. It’s better. Simple food, yet worthy of a Habsburg.