Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Week 2: Austria

When Darien (my husband) was 7, his family moved to England and they lived there for 6 years. They made sure to take advantage of their prime location, by taking family trips all over Europe. I still get envious when he recounts how his school took class trips to France to practice their French or to Italy for school skiing trips. He also learned how to ski downhill not on a tiny mole hill, but on the great Austrian Alps.

One of Darien's fondest memories of his ski trip wasn't skiing (although he asserts that was still very memorable) but it was the Wiener Schnitzel. He loved it so much, he ate it every day at lunch, for the whole 10 days they were there. He also really liked this drink that was part coke and part lemonade.

When it comes to Wiener Schnitzel, what's not to like? A thinly strip of veal lightly battered in bread crumbs, and fried in butter and served with squeeze of lemon juice. Crunchy on the outside with a slight lemony tang, and tender meat on the inside.

Italy, Hungary and the Balkans have all had an influence on Austrian cuisine. Wiener Schnitzel is actually thought to originate from Milan, in the 16th century. Interestingly enough, chicken fried steak is thought to be an adaptation of Wiener Schnitzel from the Germans who migrated to Texas in 1885-1850. Since veal was not popular but beef was, the recipe was probably adjusted for the tougher cuts of beef available.

Of course for our meal this week, I had to make some Wiener Schnitzel, served along with a side of sauteed butter cabbage. For desert instead of making apple strudel, which is delicious but a little too predictable, I made some delicious Austrian Torte cookies instead. They are great eaten individually (they have a slight hint of lemon), or with a layer of jam (the recipe called for apricot but I used raspberry instead) in between two cookies, topped with chocolate glaze.

If you like white wine, I would recommend trying a GrĂ¼ner Veltliner or a Reisling. Austrian Reisling's are finally starting to gain more recognition in the US, and are slowly finding their way on to a wine store's shelf near you. A really good Austrian Reisling worth trying is Cep Moser, either 2004 or 2006.

Wiener Schnitzel
Source: Food Network, Paula Deen

4 veal cutlets (about 4 ounces each), pounded very thin, scallopini style
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons water
2 cups plain, dry bread crumbs
Vegetable oil, for frying
Lemon wedges, for service

Pat the veal cutlets dry with paper towels. Season them with salt and pepper. Set up a standard breading procedure in 3 shallow bowls or pie plates. Put flour in 1, eggs and water in another, and bread crumbs in the last. Beat the eggs and water together. Dredge each of the veal cutlets first in flour, then egg wash and then the bread crumbs. Transfer the coated cutlets to a platter.

Heat a large straight sided skillet, filled half way up with vegetable oil, over medium-high heat. Carefully, transfer the coated cutlets into the hot oil to fry. Since they are so thin, the veal will cook very quickly, about 2 minutes per side. Drain the cutlets on a paper towel lined plate. Serve with lemon wedges.

Austrian Torte Cookies

1 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
3 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. grated lemon peel
1 egg
3 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

1 c. raspberry jam
2 oz. (2 sq.) semi-sweet chocolate
1 tbsp. shortening

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. In large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add milk, vanilla, lemon peel and egg; blend well. Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup; level off. Stir in flour, baking powder and salt; mix well. If necessary, refrigerate dough 1 hour for easier handling.

On lightly floured surface, roll dough 1/3 at a time to 1/8 inch thickness. Using a 2 inch diameter fluted cookie cutter, cut equal number of cookies. Place on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 400 degrees F. for 5 to 8 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool 1 minute, remove from cookie sheets.

To assemble, spread 1/2 teaspoon preserves over bottom of cookies; place on top another cookie.

In small saucepan over low heat, melt chocolate with shortening, stirring occasionally. Drizzle glaze over assembled cookies. 6 dozen cookies.

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