Spaetzle SCHMETZLE: Filling The Schnitzel Void

We all have that dish…. you know… THAT one… from that one place? Yeah, the one that we love and crave. Honestly, most of us have MANY of these dishes…. and over the last 14 months, that hole in our tummy has felt a bit more unavoidable and, well, punishing. With the state of the food and drink hospitality industry, and the incredible feats they have all performed to adjust and adapt to the current dining and service environment… I think we all can agree that when a restaurant or dish makes an exit, we SHOULD pay homage to it’s impact. It’s actually how I grieve. When we moved to New England from NYC, we grieved many a dish and worked at learning how to make them ourselves. Dumplings, sushi, pho, homemade pastas, Neapolitan style pizza, gooooooooood Balthazar style crusty bread… when we lost something we loved to eat, we found a way to make it.

This is that same homage to one we lost here in NH. This is a post about filling the void of our current social norms (no/limited indoor dining, our favorite restos needing to adjust menus to meet the demands of a delivery centric business model, insert food service chaos of the minute here…) and the tummy ache of when a beloved menu item (or haunt) disappears.

This is the tale of the BEST chicken schnitzel in the world (that I’ve experienced) that was eliminated from our local’s menu. I mean, it was over spaetzle! We were DEVASTATED. Like, 3 years later, after a glass of wine or so, we STILL casually bring it up with the owner. Granted, that chef has moved on, and several others have come and gone since… as the fabulous eatery has gotten more popular and has grown into its’ popularity very well… but still. It. Was. AMAZING. *sigh*

Honestly, there is only one other place that competes with that chicken schnitzel…. and unfortunately, it just so happens to be in Vermont, and we can’t travel there without quarantining first and …. *sigh*

So enough crying, crybaby. Time to figure this thing out on my own, because it is one of the only comfort foods I crave and cannot get right now. (Minca Ramen is also high on the list…. but that’s for another day…)

Note: not many reference photos in this as I decided to post about something I cooked later in the evening and my new lighting rig isn’t here yet. I will amend when I make again in the near future!

Equipment needed (after resting the batter, it comes together quickly, so have your tools at the ready!):

  • 1 large mixing bowl
  • 1 small mixing bowl
  • 1 cup measuring cup
  • Spaetzle Maker or large colander
  • Large pot with salted water
  • Spider Strainer
  • meat mallet (or the flat side of a tenderizer…)
  • Sauté Pan (or deep/large frying pan) for spaetzle
  • frying pan for chicken and sauce

Chicken Schnitzel over Spaetzle

Ingredients

Spaetzle (makes 4-8 servings, either 1 cup or 1/2cup sized)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk maybe less
  • 1/4 cup butter

Chicken Schnitzel (double this for family of 4… or if you want leftovers!)

  • 1 1/2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breast (or thin cut breasts), pounded down to 1/4″ thickness
  • 2 tsp kosher salt (divided)
  • 2 tsp ground black pepper (divided)
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup toasted sesame seeds
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2-1tsp dijon mustard
  • vegetable oil for frying

Lemon Caper sauce

  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter
  • juice from 2 lemons
  • 1 tbsp of caper brine
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • splash of white wine (optional)
  • salt/pepper to taste

Garnish

  • Lemon wedges
  • fresh chopped parsley

INSTRUCTIONS:

Spaetzle

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, parsley, and nutmeg.
  2. In a separate bowl, lightly beat eggs.
  3. Alternate between stirring beaten eggs and milk into the flour mixture until you have a smooth batter. Let the batter rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap.
  4. While batter is resting, bring your pot of water to a boil.
  5. Place your spaetzle maker or colander over the pot of boiling water. You will place the dough into the well of the spaetzle maker OR into the colander. In a maker, you will run the well across the maker’s surface which will create drops of the elastic, wet dough into the boiling water. Continue until all dough has been used. In a colander, you will need to run metal spoon around the inside of the colander, pushing out the dough and cutting it, creating the same drops into the boiling water.
  6. Boil spaetzle until all are floating. Use your spider strainer (or slotted spoon) to remove spaetzle from water.
  7. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Place drained spaetzle directly into butter and fry 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from skillet and set to the side until ready to serve.

Chicken Schnitzel

  1. Take each breast, and between two sheets of plastic wrap (or in an unsealed gallon zip lock bag), pound out the breast to thin it to approx 1/4-1/2″ thickness. This step is important as thicker breasts will take longer to cook and you risk burning your panko crust!) Lightly salt and pepper the thinned breasts and put aside on a plate to come to room temp as you prep the other steps.
  2. Take 3 small plates (or take out/storage containers… I like to use the rectangle ones for these sort of breading recipes) and prep your breading station.
  3. In one, place flour and salt and pepper. Mix well
  4. In second, lightly scramble eggs with the dijon.
  5. In the last, place panko, seeds and salt and pepper. Mix well.
  6. One by one, run your thinned breasts through your breading station. First through the flour, coating well… then through the egg wash (make sure there is egg covering the entire piece!) and finally in the panko/breadcrumb. Set prepped breast aside on a plate and continue with all thinned breasts. Once all are breaded, place oil in your skillet and bring up to high heat.
  7. Once oil is shimmering (heated high for the fry), add your prepped breasts to the pan and cook for 2 minutes per side or until golden brown. Remember, if you have thinned the breasts enough, this is plenty of time to cook through. If not, you might need to cook longer to ensure it is cooked all the way through.
  8. Repeat frying until all are complete.

Finishing Sauce

  1. Wipe down skillet quickly with paper towel removing any chunks of breading/crumb.
  2. Melt butter over medium heat
  3. Add lemon juice, capers, caper juice (and splash of wine if using) and bring to boil. Sauce will thicken a bit. This is a quick finishing sace to add over the schnitzel and spaetzle, so you can make/use as much or as little as you want. I like a thinnish pan sauce for this dish. Add salt/pepper to taste.

Plate as you like (I use a large, shallow bowl and lay a bed of spaetzle with the schnitzel overlapping half of it… then drizzle the pan sauce, top with smoked sea salt and fresh chopped parsley and serve with a lemon wedge.)

Here are a few links to some of the non-basic tools used :

Spaetzle Maker (with spider strainer) This was what I asked Santa for this past Christmas. Yes, simple. Yes, inexpensive. And YES – worth it. Just for the ravings of my hubby who said “I’m so glad Santa decided to get you what you asked for this year…” It is a hit! The spaetzle comes together easier than fresh pasta in my opinion and gives a heartiness to so many possible main dishes… from veal to pork to chicken or even vegetarian dishes. This will get lots of use in our house.

Heavy bottom Sauté Pan It may not seem like it’s needed in your kitchen, but I LOVE a good sauté pan. Very versatile (use it like a frying pan if you want to reduce splatter) as a braiser, an ‘all in one pan’ pasta maestro… there are so many uses and ours gets a bunch of use during the winter months for the hearty items we put on the plate. We love both AllClad and Cuisinart when it comes to our pans, mainly due to their tried and true nature and consistent results. We are about 95% stainless steel (when not using our cast irons) again for their consistent results and ability to take a beating. Here is our covered sauté:

Nice Wide Bowls (Pasta, Grain, Salad… you name it… who doesn’t like a great bowl?) Yeah, I will admit, we own a TON of bowls. Mismatched, for different dishes (deep ramen bowls, basic cereal, berry bowls…) …LOTS. I could go on and on. But lately, the ones we reach for the most are these: easy enough for a meal with a protein needing to be cut, to a soup, these Lucky Brand Dinner Bowls are a great size and are also beautiful (currently my favorite…)

It is such a comforting dish. And this makes enough spaetzle for several meals…

I love the texture and subtle flavor of this spaetzle, too. The nutmeg comes through just a tiny, tiny bit and the fresh parsley and lemon keep it bright. The schnitzel is also super tasty with the addition of the toasted sesame seeds… and you get just a teensy bit of the dijon in there too…

I love building a meal based on subtle flavors, so when they combine – BOOM! You close your eyes when you chew. Yeah, you know that moment … when you have a great bite and are just in the moment savoring it? THAT is what good food does. That is what learning to make this brings us in our household…. an homage to an amazing dish from a favorite place… and in that bite, we remember the laughs, the fun out with our friends and loved ones… sharing a meal, or a cocktail, or a great cup of coffee.

We are sensory beings. Learning how to pay homage to those great memories is HEALTHY during these times. In moderation. Don’t fry everything or learn every cocktail recipe in a week, friends! But I truly believe, in these tough times.. where we are struggling with being separated… being stuck in a rut, wondering how we can still stay connected… (other than supporting your local haunts through take out or outdoor dining options…) THIS is a great way for YOU to feel reconnected. It is a form of mindfulness that I love and one I practice often.

What dishes do YOU miss? How can YOU reconnect?

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