Fall has always been my favorite season of the year. I still have vivid memories of so many activities that I enjoyed with siblings and relatives growing up in Michigan. They all seemed more enhanced by the chill in the air and the gorgeous bursts of red, orange and gold foliage along with the smell of burning leaves. Yeah, this was back in the covered wagon, pre-AQMD days when you could still rake your leaves into piles and turn them into cool smoky bonfires. We lived in the burbs mostly but it was only a half-hour drive and you’d be in the heart apple and cherry country. On the first really chilly weekend we’d throw on our jeans, sweaters and scarves, pile in the car and head out for a visit to Porter’s Apple Orchard. In the barn they had a large deep fryer set-up where you could watch as buttermilk cake doughnuts bobbed up and down. Hot out of the fryer they would then dust them with a heavy winter coat of powdered sugar. They were still so hot that the sugar would start to melt right onto these craggy wheels of blissful joy… OMG were they freaking good. They had picnic tables where you could scarf down your warm donuts with gallons ice cold, and I mean seriously cold, just pressed cider… the best juice on the planet. I cannot begin to try and explain how amazing this hot & cold, yin & yang combination tasted together. I think my personal best was 8 donuts.
Being part German, there’s another reason I look forward to the fall… Oktoberfest, which is a wonderful celebration surrounding great beer and delicious German cuisine. There are more than 2 million residents in Michigan alone claiming German heritage so there are lots of options for ‘Great Lakes’ residents to celebrate Oktoberfest. One of the most well-known celebrations takes place in what is known as “Little Bavaria” which is a rural town in central Michigan otherwise known as the city of Frankenmuth. This village also is famous for its Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations and has a wonderful restaurant called the ‘Bavarian Inn’. So yes, Oktoberfest is uniquely a German celebration, but as part of our cultural melting pot, it has been embraced by Americans throughout the states and, I for one, am very thankful for this.
Now, I’m not one of those guys who hear the call of the ‘Great Pumpkin’ after the first frost and decide to brew their own beer in the garage or hang their ‘artisanal’ sausages in the basement… ah nope. But there is one dish that I always cook during this time of the year that is both simple to prepare and simply delicious… Austria’s famous ‘Schnitzel’. The preparation of schnitzel allows for only two options… deep fried or pan fried and either way it will come out delicious. However, the meat used is what this discussion is about. The traditional meat for this dish is the now ‘politically incorrect’ veal.. so that’s out. Pork is the other protein often used but, even with the ‘magical animal’, there are multiple cuts that I have seen used. Trust me here when I tell you that pork tenderloin is absolutely the cut to use… did I mention I was part German? This cut has always been one of my favorites to cook with. It’s inexpensive, tender, moist, very forgiving and can be sauteed, grilled or roasted. It’s the ‘tenderloin’ which means its’ the ‘filet mignon’ of pork, the most tender cut of the animal, however, unlike its beef counterpart, it can be cooked well done and, with a little care, will still be moist and flavorful. This dish is served with a variety of sauces but I think the one that best compliments it is a simple caper-brown butter which is quick and easy to make. So have a look at how to prepare this and enjoy one of my favorite Oktoberfest dishes. Too busy to cook? Join us at any JFAT locations in October and enjoy this classic as part of our Oktoberfest celebration menu.
Recipe – Pork Schnitzel with Caper-Brown Butter
Note: Serves 4
» 20-24 oz Pork Tenderloin
» As needed Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
» ½ cup Flour
» 3 eggs Eggs, beaten
» ½ cup Fine Breadcrumbs (Progresso or Panko brand)
» 2 TBS Grated Parmesan
» ¼ cup Olive oil
» 4 ounces Unsalted butter, cut into cubes
» ¼ cup Caper, drained
» 1 each Lemon, cut into 4 wedges
Pork tenders normally come very well trimmed but always have a little bit of what is called ‘silver skin’ which is inedible and must be removed before making the cutlets. Using a sharp paring knife locate the silver skin and, holding the tender, slide the knife beneath the skin and cut it into lengthwise strips until it is all removed. There may be a small amount of residual fat as well which should be trimmed as well.
Silver skin removal
Next you want to cut the tender into 4 portions weighing 5-6 ounces each. Next you want to flatten each piece into medallions of approximately ¼” thick. If it’s a bit thicker that works too. The best way is to place it between two pieces of plastic, or inside a plastic bag, and with a meat tenderizer/pounder carefully flatten it into a cutlet. The shape of the cutlet is not important…the more irregular the shape the better! Season each cutlet on both sides lightly with salt and pepper and place together on plate.
Cut into portions
Cutlets ready to bread
Combine breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese. Using 3 paper plates place flour on one, beaten eggs on another and breadcrumb mix on one. Dredge each cutlet first in flour on both sides, then egg batter, drain, and then into breadcrumbs making sure the entire surface is coated on both sides. Place breaded cutlets on large plate. In large saute pan heat olive oil until shimmering. Carefully place the cutlets into oil and fry on each side until golden brown.
Golden Brown sauteed cutlets
Most likely you will only be able to cook two cutlets at a time so keep the first two in a warm oven until you complete all four. While cutlets are being held in oven, wipe the saute pan clean with paper towel. Return pan to high heat and add butter pieces. Swirl butter until it becomes a light hazelnut brown color and becomes fragrant. Turn off heat and carefully add capers into pan (they will bubble up and splatter) and swirl.
Caper – Brown Butter
Place cutlets on serving plates and nap each one with the caper-brown butter. Top cutlets with 2 lemon wedges, sprinkle with parsley and enjoy a German-American classic!
Traditionally this dish is served with buttered egg noodles… queue Julie Andrews from Sound of Music…”door bells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles”. Other options are German potato salad and apple & bacon braised cabbage… look for recipes for these in future posts.
German Potato Salad and Arugula