The Secret to the Perfect Wiener Schnitzel

Perfect Wiener Schnitzel

My friend B., a true Bavarian woman, prepares the best Wiener Schnitzel (Viennese breaded and fried veal cutlet). Since she once cooked this for us some years ago, we always ask for it whenever we visit her, although she cooks and bakes a lot of other things very good, too (she has a mean tiramisu, but that is for another time). I always wanted to learn her secret. Sure, you have to use the best veal you can find, otherwise it is not fit to be called Wiener Schnitzel, but her Schnitzel has this light and airy quality, the coating doesn’t stuck, it is perfectly golden and crisp with no blackened specks and it tastes so other-worldly.

This is her secret:

Butter at the end

Start with vegetable oil, end with butter! Now there are all kinds of recommendations out there for frying things, but this one here for a Schnitzel, it makes really sense: You start frying in vegetable oil, which heats up higher (and better) than butter, so you get the fluffy crumb. It doesn’t burn like butter would do if you used it all the way, so there are no black spots and burnt taste. And the butter in the end gives the great butter taste, which plain oil would lack. I also argued in favor of Butterschmalz (clarified butter, like ghee) which has a high burning point, but it really lacks the fresh butter flavor this method brings.

So next time you are frying a bread-crumbed cutlet, try this out. You will see it is the best method!

Drink: Best with Wiener Schnitzel is a fresh and light Grüner Veltliner (dry white wine from Vienna, Austria); what grows together, goes together!

My First Wagyu (and the 1st Birthday)

Sorry for the long absence. We moved within Stuttgart and didn’t have internet for a long time (thanks, Alice!), and I didn’t feel like blogging from an obnoxiously expensive internet café. But food vagabond has been eating and cooking all the time!

Wagyu Buttheart

We didn’t have this Wagyu dinner exactly on food vagabond’s 1st birthday (which was August 7th), but it sure was fine enough for the occasion.

Our friend A. and I had been discussing Wagyu for a long time. She had her first bite of Wagyu a couple of months ago in SE Asia and had been pestering me with the idea of cooking it at home ever since. Yes, we have very annoying friends. Finally I surrendered and she ordered this most expensive piece of meat I have ever eaten on the internet, which was delivered to her office the day before we had planned to cook it. Of course we had prepared a deserving dinner around the core-piece, the wagyu.

Serrano Appetizer

K. prepared this great appetizer (Serrano ham on grissini, with thyme and flower decoration – yes, men can have taste in such things!), which we devoured with some champagne.

foie gras creme brulee

I prepared this crème brûlée de foie gras (no, I don’t speak any French either, but that recipe is pretty straightforward) from the newest 3-star female chef in France, Anne-Sophie Pic, without the apple espuma of the original version (I used dried apple slices instead).

Sauternes Bastor-Lamontagne 1979 Sauternes - amber colored

We drank a 1979 Sauternes with this. A colleague of T.’s had given him the bottle with the words “I am cleaning out my cellar and I know you are a wine-lover, maybe you will like it, it is lost completely on me”. Like it? We loved it, how often do you get a perfectly kept almost 30 years old bottle that goes perfect with foie gras?

Wagyu Striploin

We had two different cuts (striploin and buttheart) which A. and I prepared two ways: simply seared (above), and according to an herb-laden recipe from Stefan Marquard, one of Germany’s “young & wild” chefs (below).

Wagyu Buttheart with herbs

I personally liked the buttheart/simply seared combination most; almost all of us agreed that the striploin was tougher (of course we are fussing on a very high level here, it still was more tender than most other meat); most liked the herb-preparation a lot, too. The buttheart was really melt-in-your-mouth, with a distinct lamb-like, or gamey, taste. While preparing the steaks, A. and I had slow-melted some fat cut from the striploin edges and tasted it as is, which had even more of this lamb-ish taste, which we liked.

French Rabbit

J. had thought this fine wine would go well with the delicate steaks… Seriously, please keep clear of this new fad, this wine doesn’t even deserve the name, and life is really too short to drink stuff like this. We actually accompanied the Wagyu with great South African reds from K.’s cellar.

Cherry-Chocolate Clafoutis

Poor R., who couldn’t eat any of our very rare Wagyu (she is pregnant and we refused to waste any Wagyu by cooking it “done” – she had her own shoe sole “regular” steak), made a lovely cherry-chocolate clafoutis, served with balsamic filled raspberries (a revelation!) on creme patissier, if I am not wrong. This was a worthy end (after some cheese) to a great luxury dinner.

So will I eat Wagyu again? I liked the taste and the texture a lot. The price is rather high, although you could get a buttheart steak for 25 Euros, which is not a lot more than what you would pay for a normal steak in a good steakhouse. So that might be an option. I missed the foie gras-like taste a lot of eaters have reported, and I sure won’t order any Wagyu in a restaurant in Europe or USA, where it costs well over 100 Euros. But I might try it once again if I ever go to Japan, just to see the real thing (As real Kobe Wagyu is not being exported anymore, ours was an American Wagyu). In the meantime, I do prefer to eat a local (Bavarian) bison, where one kilo of locally raised, tender bison fillet costs around 40 Euros.

Wine and Food Fair Finds

Forum Vini Logo Kulinart Logo Best wines of Stuttgart

In this past 10 days, we have visited 3 very different wine and food related fairs. I liked them all, although they differ vastly. Each of these fairs had its strengths and we found some gems and learned new things in all.

RinklinThe week of wines started in Munich with the 22nd edition of Forum Vini. In this international fair which is getting bigger every year (almost 10.000 visitors who had to haggle themselves through 323 exhibitors this year) we always visit some “constants” like our beloved organic wine producer Rinklin, who years ago seriously led us to German wines for the first time. His Muskateller, Riesling and Pinot Blanc may be expected from a winery in the Baden region, but he surprises with his Pinot Noir and Regent, reds which are full of body, with very well balanced tannins and aromas of spices.

If you do not limit yourself to a certain theme or region, you will easily be overwhelmed with the abundance in this fair. My advice, actually for any wine fair which is bigger than just 10 vineyards or so, is to seek out maybe a region (e.g. south Italy), a theme (autochtonous varieties) or a seminar well in advance, register where necessary, and stick to it. Afterwards, if you feel up to it, you can still visit the one or the other promising-looking wine-stand.

Chocolate and wine tastingOne seminar I visited this time was very interesting: Chocolate and Wine! Combined were different wines from the Graf Metternich Vineyards and chocolates from chocolatier Bernd Danner. As with any food, when combining wine with chocolate there are lesser and better results but the one important lesson to learn was: Do not be afraid to try different pairings. Sweet whites are of course the first that come to mind, but there were interesting tastes to be created even with dry whites or not so dry reds. Just make sure to choose pure chocolates with high cacao percentages, experiment with different beans and regions. Stay away from chocolates with flavors, like orange, chili etc. when combining with wines. Taste the wine first, then take a piece of chocolate, let it melt a little bit in your mouth and take a sip of the wine. Now mix everything in your mouth with a “washing machine movement”, as Mr. Danner put it. Especially chocolates with light acidic notes (a criollo from Venezuela or Madagascar) in combination with sweet white or red wines were my favorites, both benefiting from each other and creating new, fruity aromas.

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RömerkastellBeekeeper Peter Pfeifle The second exhibition which we visited was the contrast program. The Kulinart which just took place for the second year in Stuttgart had around 60 exhibitors (mainly delicatessen from Italy and France, wine from all over Europe, chocolate and kitchen utensils) and 5000 visitors in the beautiful and over a century old Römerkastell building on an historical site near Stuttgart. White trufflesTruffle Don, Jr.This exhibition was very nice, almost intimate and had a lot to offer although it was rather small. We ordered some great Burgund wines (Morey St. Denis, Gevrey Chambertin and Corton Grand Cru) from an irresistible Frenchman named “Du Pape”(!), bought some honey made by real Stuttgart bees in Stuttgart vineyards and: Truffles from Alba from some very charming Italian men. The one to the right might be Truffle Don, Jr., don’t you think?

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Last but not least, we visited a wine tasting of 11 winemakers strictly from within the city limits of Stuttgart. From our terrace we can see almost all of these vineyards (and no, Stuttgart is not a village, although a lot of Bavarians thinks so) and it was very exciting to try whites and reds from these winemakers. Some are co-ops, some are privately owned and along with the usual suspects (Riesling!) we had a few surprises: Some Lemberger (Blaufränkisch elsewhere) with just the right amount of time in the right wooden barrels were real charmers (Weingut der Stadt Stuttgart, for example), Rotenberg, which we had already tasted in Wielandshöhe proved that the whole assortment is worthy. But the real discovery was a very light dry red wine, almost rose, from the rare “Muskat-Trollinger” vine. The winemaker told us that this vine is autochtonous, but some online research reveals that it is also found in France, USA and Greece, under the name of Black Hamburg, Muscat de Hambourg or Black Muscat. If you drink this wine from a black glass you would surely think it is a white wine, it is so full of typical Muscat aromas, reminding of elder flowers. Although other Muscat varietals are often used for sweet or fortified wines, this was dry. The combination on the palate was unbelievable. I will definitely hunt this wine down and buy some bottles.

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All in all, a week full of very different wine-related events. And it is not even over: Tonight we are going to a southwest France wine tasting by one of Germany’s best sommeliers, Bernd Kreis. First new information I will put to a test will be combining wine and chocolate for the coming up Sugar High Friday with the irresistible theme chocolate truffles!

Upcoming Wine Events

Vertical tasting

a private wine event

Here are some wine and culinary events that might interest you. We will be attending all of these. Reports will follow!

Forum Vini, the 21st 22nd edition of the fair for wine lovers and gourmets is taking place this weekend, 10-12 November, in Munich. We have been visiting this fair for 6 years now and it has always been very interesting. This year there is a new mini sister-fair: XOCOLADE! Guess what that one is about.

Kulinart, the fair for indulgence and style about all things culinary, is on 18-19 November in Stuttgart. This will be a first for us.

Best wines of Stuttgart, a wine tasting with the best Stuttgart has to offer, is on November 19 in Stuttgart.

Telling the plain truth- the wine world in flux, an exhibition about wine in the Baden-Württemberg region of Germany, is going on till July 2007.

Tarte Tatin with salted caramel

Tarte Tatin

tarte Tatin

There are many ways to bake an upside-down apple pie. As with everything that claims to be a traditional, classic dish, there are a lot of discussions about the rights and wrongs. Even I have baked many different versions of an upside-down pie which I have carelessly called “tarte Tatin” and now I am so ashamed. I will never call any other preparation way a tarte Tatin: An upside-down savory pie is easy and delicious (onions!) and even the sweet version can be made with many different fruits (figs! pears!), but if you are baking a real tarte Tatin all you need is sugar, butter, apples and a sweet short crust pastry. And as Rita had specifically and very nicely asked for a tarte Tatin recipe, I decided to go the classical way this time.

Of course I couldn’t help myself and had to tweak it some. For one thing, I wanted to use the lemon and lime sugar Lil had sent me for EBBP #6. And since my discovery of salted caramels in Paris, I have an insatiable understandable craving for the divine combination of salt and burnt sugar.

I made this tarte Tatin for a dinner party this past Saturday, hosted by our friends A. and K. in Munich who cooked up a delicious Mediterranean menu (best spaghetti bolognese I ever had!) and where we drank (as always) inhuman amounts of wine. But that is another post. The tarte was received well and I also thought that it tasted pretty good, the salt from the salted french butter and the dash of lime went very well with all that sugar. Next time I will reduce cooking times in both phases by 5 minutes so that the color of the caramel and apples is more uniform, I have altered the recipe below accordingly. Also I might use bigger apples, the “König’s Luiken” I used were very good (slightly tart) but so small that in the end you could think there were apricots, not apple quarters, on the pie.

We drank a Moscato from Lombardy from K.’s cellar with this. Traditionally I would recommend a Sauternes. You can substitute any semi-sweet wine, even a bubbly one.

(almost) classic Tarte Tatin
adapted from the classic recipe at the official tarte Tatin website
serves 6-8
prep: 20 mins
cook: 25 mins @ medium heat
bake: 25 mins @ 170°C (Gas 6)

apples, 1kg (Reine des Reinettes or other slightly tart and firm sort)
salted butter, 125g (or regular butter with a pinch of salt)
sugar, 125g
lemon and lime sugar, 1 tbsp (or 1 tsp grated lemon peel)
for the crust
sugar, 50g
butter, 100g, cut to pieces, cold
flour, 150g
salt, one pinch
water, 4 tbsp, cold

Start with the crust. Using your hands or two spatulas, mix the butter and the sugar till it is paste like. Add the flour and the salt, knead till the dough comes together. Add cold water slowly till you have a uniform, not sticky dough; you may not need all of the water. Form a ball, wrap it in shrink wrap and put in the fridge to rest.
Rinse, peel and quarter the apples. Discard the cores.
Preheat the oven.
Take a big (28 cm) non-stick pan that you can use stove-top as well as in the oven. If your pan has a plastic handle it is not an obstacle: Wrap the handle completely in 5 or 6 layers of aluminium foil. Over medium heat, melt the butter, sprinkle the sugars evenly on top, wait till the sugar dissolves/melts as well. This will look like too much butter, do not worry. Put the apple pieces with the (formerly) skin side down in circles in the melted butter/sugar mix. You may want to fill in gaps with some smaller cut pieces. Let the sugar and the apples caramelize in 25 mins, still over medium heat, do not stir. You can shake the pan if you have a feeling that the caramel is not uniformly distributed.
Take the dough out of the fridge, roll it out slightly bigger than your pan. Take the pan from the heat, carefully transfer the dough to the pan (use the rolling pin as help). Tuck in the dough around the edges. If you are preparing the tarte ahead of time, you may now put the pan, covered, in a cool place to rest. 30 mins before serving, proceed with the oven phase.
Transfer the pan to the preheated oven and bake for 25 mins, until the crust is golden-brown. Take the pan out (don’t forget to use oven mitts, a pan handle has a way of spoofing you to grab it without thinking), cover with a bigger (serving-) plate and holding both the bottom of the pan and the covering plate on two sides without the handle, turn it upside down very quickly. If your pan is heavy and/or the handle is in the way, you may want to have someone help you by holding and turning the handle at the same time.
Serve warm but not piping hot.

Notes: The classic recipe calls for short crust pastry, despite all the discussions to the contrary. At times I have also used puff pastry but in the mean time have also become a believer in the short crust pastry. Puff pastry flakes and puffs too much, if you are not eating the tarte a.s.a.p. it gets soggy and it is harder to make it yourself, too. I always use this 1-2-3 recipe (1part sugar, 2 parts butter, 3 parts flour) when I need to roll out the pastry and move it around (as is the case with an upside-down cake or a double crust pie), as it is easier to handle. When you are making only a pie-bottom, you can also use the 1-1-2 formula, you can just shove the dough around in the pan with your fingertips, no need to roll out! If you need a short cut, use store-bought short crust pastry (Mürbeteig in Germany), it is easily available and inexpensive. And it is not traditional to eat ice cream or plain cream with the tarte tatin, although I admit they do taste good! But with this salted and limed version you won’t need the extra scoop to cut through the sweetness, believe me or try it for yourself.

“König’s Luiken” apples

“König’s Luiken”