Tyson Mao (BS ’06), co-owner of Wursthall, a German restaurant and bierhaus in San Mateo, California, serves up a recipe—courtesy of Wursthall’s chef Kenji López-Alt—for a modern take on a traditional comfort food.
Better Cooking Through Science
This recipe for chicken schnitzel comes from Wursthall’s chef, Kenji López-Alt, who won a James Beard Award for his cookbook The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science.
Chicken Schnitzel with Preserved Lemon and Cucumber Salad
NOTE: At Wursthall, we brine our chicken breasts in the brine left over from our sauerkraut, which helps the meat retain moisture as it fries and gives it a nice tangy flavor. If you have sauerkraut brine left over from homemade or store-bought sauerkraut, feel free to use it in place of the brine in Step 1. Pickle juice will work similarly well. For the breadcrumbs, we start with Japanese-style panko crumbs and then grind them up in a food processor until they’re an extra-fine powder. The real key to great schnitzel is carefully drying the chicken between steps in the breading so that you don’t build up too much flour or breadcrumbs. (You will end up with excess breadcrumbs that can be refrigerated and used within three days for any recipe that thoroughly cooks them.) After frying the schnitzel, the oil can be strained and reused for cooking.
1. Place the chicken in a large bowl, and cover with 1 quart of water. Add 1/2 cup kosher salt (or 1/4 cup table salt). (See note above if using sauerkraut or pickle brine.) Set aside for at least 4 hours and preferably overnight. Transfer the chicken to a rimmed baking sheet lined with paper towels or clean kitchen towels and carefully pat dry. Season with black pepper.
2. Place flour in a shallow dish or pie plate. Place eggs in a second pie plate. Place ground panko in a third pie plate. Season flour, eggs, and panko with salt and pepper.
3. Working one cutlet at a time, carefully lift cutlet with your left hand and transfer to flour. Turn to coat. Carefully lift with your right hand and transfer it to the egg plate. Use your left hand to turn the chicken to coat. Using your left hand, carefully transfer the chicken to the bread crumbs. Using your right hand, lift crumbs and pour them over the top of the chicken and pat down. Turn the chicken and pile more crumbs on top, repeating until no egg is showing. Transfer to a parchment or foil-lined rimmed baking sheet, and repeat with remaining cutlets.
4. Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering (it should register 325°F on an instant-read thermometer). Carefully slide two cutlets into the pan and cook, gently shaking the pan until the cutlets are golden brown on the first side, about 2 minutes. Carefully turn with tongs or a slotted spatula, and continue to cook until second side is golden brown, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Cook remaining two cutlets (the first cutlets can be kept warm in a 250°F oven while the second cutlets are cooking).
5. Season cutlets with salt, and serve immediately with preserved lemon and cucumber salad.
4 chicken cutlets, pounded thin
Freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup flour
2 eggs, well-beaten
2 cups panko-style breadcrumbs, finely ground in a food processor or blender (see note above)
2 cups peanut or rice bran oil
Preserved Lemon and Cucumber Salad
NOTE: Preserved lemons can be found at Middle Eastern grocery stores or some well-stocked
Western supermarkets, such as Whole Foods*.
1. Toss cucumbers with a big pinch of salt, and place in a colander. Let drain for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, cover red onions with water in a large bowl, and let sit for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse, and then add to bowl with cucumbers to drain.
2. Combine preserved lemon, mustard, vinegar, and lemon juice in a large bowl, and whisk to combine. Drizzle in olive oil slowly while whisking until dressing is emulsified.
Add drained cucumbers and onion to the dressing. Add dill and lettuce, and toss everything to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with schnitzel.
2 large cucumbers (about 1 pound), peeled, seeded,
and roughly diced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 preserved lemon, seeds removed, skin and flesh finely chopped
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup fresh dill fronds, roughly chopped
1 head green leaf or bibb lettuce, washed and drained,
roughly torn by hand
Freshly ground black pepper
*We have found preserved lemons behind the counter in the “specialty foods” section of Whole Foods, a.k.a. the fancy cheese station. You should be able to buy an individual lemon for about $1.