Pretzel Schnitzel with Mustardy Brussels Sprouts Slaw
Schnitzel has become a regular weeknight fix in my house. It’s quick and easy to prepare, but it also has a certain something extra. Not to mention how stress-relieving it can be to pound out a pork cutlet at the end of a long day.The idea for using crushed pretzels for the breadcrumb coating came to me years ago when I was working on my first cookbook, Pretzel Making at Home, and I had a surplus of homemade hard pretzels on my hands. I turned them into pie crust; I baked them into cookies; I used them as a calamari coating; I even retooled Austria’s national dish into a pretzel-crusted version. Pretzels deliver an extra crunch, and that curious alkaline flavor that can only be described as “pretzely.”On a trip to Germany many years ago, I had a thing with schnitzel. I ordered it at almost every restaurant I visited to try it with the various sauces and accompaniments. Potatoes and spaetzle are of course delicious, but my favorite pairing was the contrast of a bright green salad with the crispy, pan-fried cutlets. At home, that may be arugula, simply dressed with lemon and olive oil, but in winter, I find this heartier shaved brussels sprouts salad with mustard dressing and sharp pecorino cheese perfectly fits the bill.Let’s talk about pan-frying. It can be intimidating, but the simple thing to remember is to get the oil hot enough so that a few crumbs sizzle on contact. Be patient and wait for this to happen, and your crust will turn out crisp rather than oil-soaked and soggy. You also want to avoid getting it so hot that the oil starts to smoke, because that results in off flavors. Speaking of smoke points, it’s a good thing to fry in olive oil. It’s a myth that extra-virgin olive oil shouldn’t be used for frying, or cooked at all, for that matter. On the contrary, it’s a stable oil with a high-enough smoke point to make it ideal for pan-frying, and it’s better here than other oils for both taste and nutrition. A few pats of butter make it even better.As for what to drink with your Pretzel Schnitzel, an everyday-priced Grüner Veltliner from Austria is the ideal, if somewhat expected, choice for pairing, with its refreshing tartness and notes of fresh green herbs and citrus zest. It’s the perfect lift for a comfortingly crispy, just-rich-enough weeknight dish.