Each winter I inevitably start a torrid affair with a particular dinner, and by the time the ground begins to thaw, neither I nor Mr. P want to eat it ever again. It took several years for us to warm back up to pork chops fried with onions, and then there was the dark nothing-but-casserole period a while back. Presently, nothing can to fill my existential void save for pork schnitzel (Schnitzel Wiener Art).
My parents, the jet-setting Mr. and Mrs. S, spent several years early in their marriage teaching at a boarding school in Germany (which, of course, was run in a converted medieval castle, and their living quarters were the tower). My father had been working there for a year before he spent a vacation back home in the US and then reappeared at the new term with a new bride. He had previously developed a penchant for the schnitzel served two doors down from his place/the tower at the Anker Bar, run by the cheerful Annie and mischievous Hans, who, having lost his ring finger down to the second knuckle in WWII, took delight in scrutinizing the face of a patron shaking his hand for the first time as he wiggled the stump good-humoredly against an unsuspecting palm.
My father, a creature of unfaltering habit, would have a schnitzel for dinner, and another for dessert. Upon the newlyweds’ first visit to the Anker, Annie took my mother back into the kitchen and taught her how to make the schnitzel Herr Smith enjoyed, so that the young bride might better please her new lord and master. The ever-gracious Mrs. S stifled all smart remarks and I subsequently grew up eating professional-tier schnitzel at home. It’s my ultimate comfort food, and my comfort tank’s running on E these days.
Nothing conveys comfort like hammering the crap out of some pork, coating it with starch, protein, and more starch, then frying it up in a nice half inch of hot oil. Take heed; without lemons, you will not be able to move after consuming this meal. I was out of lemons and made do with some bottled juice, and now I’m looking at an 8 PM bedtime. While I wish I could boast about my homemade green beans and spaetzle, I use the frozen Bird’s Eye package (but follow the stove-top directions, not those for the microwave), and while I’m disclosing, the wild rice is Uncle Ben’s. I buy it by the six-pack from BJ’s and hide it in the back of the pantry. Mr. P won’t say exactly what Benjamin did to him, but I’ve seldom seen him hate someone with such elan.
6 boneless pork chops, fat trimmed, pounded until you can almost see through them
1/2 C flour
2 eggs, beaten, in a shallow bowl
1 C breadcrumbs, on a plate
salt and pepper
2 lemons, sliced into thin rings
1 lemon, quartered, for squirting
1 tbsp butter
Heat up about a half inch of vegetable oil over medium-high in a wide skillet (I believe my mother uses butter, but I live for the crunch). Combine the flour, some salt and some pepper in a medium bowl, then spread it out on a plate. Dredge a pounded chop through the mixture, coating completely, then in the beaten egg, dripping off any excess, then lay it down in the breadcrumbs. Cover up every millimeter of that bad Larry with crumbs, and immediately place it into the piping oil.
Repeat with two more chops, or as many as you can fit in the pan while maintaining personal space. Do not get all the chops ready first; this is not an assembly line. Fry the pork for 2 to 3 minutes, then flip and fry for 2 to 3 more, depending on how much pride you took in your pounding. Transfer the cooked pork to a plate lined with a paper towel, add enough oil to the pan to get back to half an inch, then cook the remaining chops.
Once round 2 is complete, transfer the pork to the stand-by plate, and add the butter to the pan, still over medium heat. Cook this heavenly sludge for a few minutes and drizzle it over the schnitzel once it’s plated. Follow the drizzle with a squirt of lemon, and arrange a few lemon slices on top. Go ahead and treat yourself to some boxed sides — tell em Mrs. P said it’s all right. But just this once.