Welcome back to the kitchen. Something has definitely changed around here. The days are still sunny and pleasant, but the evenings just recently took on that particularly harsh chill that signals the true death of summer.
With frosts starting to hit the valley, huge quantities of crops are coming in out of the cold. The days of fresh tomatoes are giving way to squash and root vegetables, brassicas and apples. This is pie season, stew season, a time for hot cider and toddies.
It also marks three weeks of wild celebration in Leavenworth, which celebrates Oktoberfest (though in Bavaria it starts in September). The beers and brats will be flowing with abandon.
So in celebration of autumn and Oktoberfest, I wanted to do a bit of a cooking local twist on a classic German dish. I want to make a delicious schnitzel with sautéed apples and cabbage with whole grain mustard sauce.
Schnitzel is a simple dish of pounded, breaded cutlet fried or sautéed until golden brown. It is a dish cooked in many cultures around the world, but is strongly associated with German cuisine. If you have ever had chicken tenders, you have basically had a form of schnitzel. But when home made fresh, this is one of the quickest, easiest, and juiciest ways to cook up some pork, chicken, or other boneless meat. The two tricks are to pound the meat thin so it is tender and cooks quickly, and to use the classic three dip breading method to get that crispy breading to stick.
The apple topping or side dish is also simple, we will just sautee some shallots, onions or leeks in a little bacon fat, add in some thin sliced apples and cabbage or brussel sprouts, add a little splash of cider (hard or soft), apple cider vinegar, and a spoon of whole grain mustard. We’ll let that get nice and tender, and it will make a deliciously sweet and tangy topping for the schnitzel.
By the way, I think schnitzel makes for perfect hangover food, so it’s totally ok if you end up making this for a late brunch on Sunday instead of trying to pregame with a heavy dinner before Oktoberfest celebrations.
I’m going to do chicken schnitzel, because I’ve got some nice, lean, naturally raised chicken breasts. But boneless pork chops, beef, or turkey would work equally well (but all taste a little different).
So for these chicken schnitzels we will need:
-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 to 1.5 pounds)
-1/2 cup flour
-1 egg, beaten
-splash of milk
-3/4 cup bread crumbs or panko breading
-seasoning for the breading including black pepper, tiny pinch of cayenne and/or paprika, dash of garlic powder, and ¼ teaspoon salt (seasoned or regular, also feel free to vary the spices)
-about ½ cup peanut or other high frying cooking oil
-sliced lemon and chopped fresh parsley for garnish
For the apple cabbage side we’ll need:
-1 large, firm, ripe apple (or two medium apples), chopped into thin slices or small bite sized pieces
-1 medium onion (or 1 leek or 3 shallots, depending on what is local and what you’ve got), sliced thin
-1 slice thick cut bacon, cut into small strips
-2 cups cabbage, shredded (can also used chopped brussel sprouts instead)
-1 heaping tablespoon whole grain mustard
-about 1/3 cup apple cider (the hard stuff if you’ve got it, or the regular sweet stuff, or even substitute white wine if that’s what you have on hand)
-1 teaspoon (small splash) apple cider vinegar
-salt and pepper to taste (plus fresh tarragon if you’ve got it, but that is optional
Let’s actually start with the apple dish, because we want to let it cook down a bit and it will take a little longer than the schnitzel. Plus, we want to serve our schnitzel nice and hot, so let’s start with the apple dish.
In a nice heavy cast iron skillet, start the bacon over a medium heat, stirring every few minutes. Once the bacon bits have released their fat and are starting to crisp up nicely, revoke the bacon pieces and set aside. Toss the sliced onions into the bacon fat and sauté until they start to become translucent. Next, stir in the apple pieces and reduce the heat to medium low. Saute the apples and onions, stirring occasionally, until the fruit starts to soften.
Next, add the cider or white wine, vinegar, and mustard. Also toss in the fresh tarragon if you are using it. Let the liquids simmer over a low heat and cook down for about 5 or 10 minutes. When the liquids have partially cooked off, add in the shredded cabbage and cover the skillet to let the remaining steam help it cook. When the cabbage is tender and the liquids have reduced down, remove this apple dish from the heat. But taste it first. Is there enough of a mustardy bite? Does it need a bit more cider to sweeter, or a splash more vinegar instead? Trust your tongue here.
Now, let’s get to frying up these chicken schnitzels. The first step is to pound each chicken breast until it has flattened out to about 1/4 inch or so. I like to do this inside of a large zip top bag to keep the countertops clean. Also, I don’t have a meat tenderizing hammer, so I improvised with a heavy rolling pin. You could use a heavy but small frying pan, a can of soup, or any other heavy flattening object you can find. Try to flatten out each piece of chicken relatively evenly, so they cook evenly.
When the chicken breasts are flattened out, dredge them in the plain flour first, making sure they are covered all over but shaking out the excess. Beat together the egg and milk in a bowl, and dip each piece of chicken in the mixture (one at a time). On a large plate mix together the bread crumbs with the salt and spices, then roll the egg covered chicken cutlet in the breading, making sure it sticks to both sides. This three step method is the secret to getting perfect fried coating to stick. The plain flour and egg act as glue for the seasoned bread crumbs.
Heat up the cooking oil in a large skillet to medium high, then cook the cutlets in batches. If they are big, just do one at a time. They should take about 3 or 4 minutes per side to reach a nice, crispy golden brown and cook the chicken all the way through. Set each cutlet aside on a paper towel to cool when they are done.
And there you have it! Quick and easy schnitzel with a delicious local apple, cabbage, and onion sauté to go with it, yum! Serve each cutlet with a generous helping of the mustard flavored apples, plus a sprinkling of chopped parsley and a lemon wedge. You could also do some buttered egg noodles with pepper and parsley to sort of approximate German spaetzle if you want to continue the Oktoberfest theme.
The sweet, tangy, mustard-tinged sautéed apples and cabbage (with that wonderful hint of bacon goodness) go great with the juicy, crispy chicken cutlets. And this meal can actually be thrown together pretty quickly on a weeknight. I do recommend using a grease splatter screen and turning on your stove’s exhaust fan when frying the schnitzel, as that can become a messy and smoky business if you aren’t careful.
So there you have it: a great autumn recipe celebrating our area’s apples and Oktoberfest. What recipes are you tempted by as we move into fall? Send me any questions, comments, or suggestions to Isaac@kohoradio.com
. Cooking local in the KOHO Kitchen, I’m Isaac Kaplan-Woolner.