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Israeli Schnitzel My Way

Schnitzel originates from Austria, where it was and still is a breaded pork cutlet. Brought to Israel by Austrian and German Jews, it was quickly adapted to use the more plentiful and definitely more kosher chicken and sometimes turkey breast meat. Today, schnitzel is undoubtedly the most common food Israelis of all stripes eat at home and on the road, where it is sold stuffed into pita bread with hummus and tahine. Every Israeli has his or her own schnitzel recipe that they are passionate about, here’s mine.

First off, I prefer not to bang the crap out of the chicken breast to flatten it out because it makes a horrible noise and gets bits of chicken lodged in various places one would not normally think of. Rather, I prefer to simply slice a whole chicken breast across the grain into thin slices, like one would do with a loaf of bread. You will need a sharp non-serrated knife to get it done right. If you have sufficient foresight, marinating the slices overnight in some freshly squeezed lemon juice is a great idea.

Next, prepare the flour, egg wash, and breadcrumbs. Use any kind of flour except the self-rising kind and liberally season it with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and if you have it, a bit of turmeric, which will not only give it a wonderful flavor, but add fantastic color as well. For the egg wash use whole eggs with a bit of whole milk or cream, whisked well together. The breadcrumbs are the simplest commercial kind, unseasoned.

Preheat a large heavy skillet with at least 1 cm (1/2 inch) of good vegetable oil. Butter or olive oil are poor choices because they burn at high temperatures. Dip each chicken slice into the seasoned flour to cover and shake off any excess. Next dip it thoroughly in the egg wash and cover it with breadcrumbs before transferring it into smoking hot oil. As soon as the first slice is in, lower the temperature to medium to avoid burning. Keep adding new slices while checking the ones you have already added. As soon as they are a deep golden brown, flip them and cook until the other side has the same color. Add oil as needed; you should always have plenty in the skillet and the breadcrumbs do absorb it. Season the ready slices with salt and pepper as they come out of the skillet and serve with mashed potatoes and salad.

In our family, we like to quickly fry the remaining egg wash in the hot oil after all the schnitzel pieces are cooked. Waste not, want not!

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