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I grew up eating from the hot pan and cooling rack of a Swiss housewife.  So dishes centered around a tasty cutlet of meat feel like coming home.

Schnitzels feature prominently in Swiss cuisine (as they do around the world), but the Wiener schnitzel is something special.  Vienna in German is “Wien”—hence the “Wiener” schnitzel originates in the Austrian capital.  According to some web sources, the appellation is protected by Austrian law; restaurants are forbidden to sell Wiener schnitzels unless they are made from the traditional veal.  If they are selling the ubiquitous (and cheaper) pork version, they’re required to call it “Schnitzel Wiener Art” (i.e. schnitzel in the Wiener style), or tack on “vom Schwein”, leaving no doubt as to the paucity of baby cow in the dish.

So special is the Wiener version of what the yanks call “chicken-fried beef”, that no lesser authority than the Oxford English Dictionary gives it the “esp.” nod in its general definition for schnitzel:


A veal cutlet, esp. in Wiener ({sm}vi{lm}n{schwa}(r)) schnitzel, one coated with egg and breadcrumbs, fried and often garnished with lemon, capers, anchovies, etc., in the Viennese style.

Now, there are all kinds of recipes on the Interweb for Wiener schnitzel, but being a sometimes word nerd, I’ll jump at using the OED as a cookbook.  I also happen to love the similar Holstein schnitzel served up at the Rathskeller, since it combines in one dish at least four different and extremely efficient vehicles for salt.  So I’m going to assume that by “etc.”, the mouldy old dictionary academics on the River Thames meant “fried egg with paprika and black pepper.”

In my preparations for today, I also consulted my only Austrian friend, Rita, for her family recipe, which she was happy to divulge despite being a vegan!  One thing she said surprised me a little and wasn’t reflected in all the North American recipes I saw online.  She said I should fry in 1-2 cm of oil so the meat is floating.  I guess the real deal is practically deep-fried.  Hmm… my mouth just watered as I thought about meat and typed “deep-fried”.  Rita: you’re such a good sport.

I made a half-hearted attempt to locate some veal outside of the agribusiness-dealing grocery chains, but discovered that even specialty butchers have to special order it.  It seems the average Victoria shopper just ain’t that into mewling calf meat—must be those big brown eyes.  With two kids starting Kindergarten and pre-school this week, buying good veal took more foresight and planning than I could handle.  So instead, I sourced three cuts of Berkshire pork from Sea Bluff farms in Metchosin by way of the Village Butcher in Oak Bay.  Mr. Butcher was also kind enough to inflict his special tenderizing hammer-machine on the little strips of swine, prior to purchase.

After making sure the fire extinguisher was within arms’ reach, I set to flouring, egging, breadcrumbing and frying.  Here’s how things progressed:

When I dropped the first cutlet, I was a little intimidated by the furious popping, crackling and awesome bubbling racket that ensued.  But by the last one, I felt I’d got the hang of it.  The recipe calls for a 1/4 inch cut, and now I can see why.  I had to leave my thick cuts in a little too long to ensure they were cooked through, overcrisping the breading a little.  The bread I used was the densest loaf I could find at Cob’s, but my wimpy little food processor may not have ground it finely enough.  The breading was less-than-even and very thick, resulting in one crunchy piece of meat.  But the lovely squirts of lemon, the salty tangs of caper and anchovy, and the smooth mellow yellowness of the egg all served to temper the intensity of the fried pork.

A week ago, in preparation for today’s meat-frying adventure, I tried a schnitzel from the culinary sorceresses at Devour.  A thyme-breaded and prosciutto-wrapped pork schnitzel with lentils du Puy and stewed fruit sauce, to be precise:

It was damn fine.  But I think my Mom would prefer my bastardized OED schnitzel.

~ Rolf

Eds: in a parody of one of our favourite CBC Radio shows, “The Debaters“, Eva and Deanna take on the following question:


[Eva posts first thing in the a.m.  Come back later for Deanna’s reply, when she will defend the Ice Cream Soda after having one specially prepared for her at Devour.]

Eva: A vile punishment. We call it a “float” up here in Canada, by the way.

It’s the skungee foam on top that really gets me. I like ice cream. There’s a special place in my heart for it. You know I like “soda” or as we call it here in Canada, “pop” [aside: I was recently in the US and stopped at McDonald’s to use the washroom. Still had a long drive ahead so, noticing it was a “serve yourself” joint, I ordered a small “fountain pop” from the girl behind the counter. Her response: “huh”? Um, a small soda, please? Oops.]


When I was in Grade 3 (“third grade” to you Americans – Terina!), we had floats at our Hallowe’en party. Mine was orange vanilla. They were probably all orange vanilla, come to think of it. I remember staring in horror at the curdled milk bits adorning the bubbles at the top of my float. “I’m sure it’s not meant to look like this”, I thought to my wee self. And yet all of my friends’ floats looked the same, and they were gulping them with glee.

I have to admit, at the age of 8 in Grade 3, I was impressionable. I was willing to force myself through an orange float if that’s what my friends were doing.

I will forever be haunted by the bright orange splash of vomit against the pure white snow drift on the way home from school. Milk, cream, ice cream: never meant to be carbonated. Especially in Orange Fanta.

That’s all. Ice cream floats are gross. If you want to know the history, look it up yourself. Some things should not be celebrated.


So… um, I thought I had this one in the bag.

As mentioned by Eva, I had arranged for the expert help of Miss A, the lovely assistant at Devour who makes all of their amazing homemade ice creams and savoury sodas. Think lavender & mint seltzer and strawberry balsamic ice cream. This was going to be the foodies version of a float – no chemically smelling grape pop here.

Alas, when I got to Devour, Miss A had already disappeared home, apparently suffering from a memory lapse brought on by [alleged] hangover. There were no floats to be found.

Which leaves me with but one point in rebuttal: Eva does not eat bacon – and in matters of food, can you really trust someone who isn’t a shameless bacon eater? Clearly her judgement is DEEPLY impaired. Case closed. Victory to Team [Hypothetical] Delectable Treat!!!

 PS – the orange fanta you can get in Europe rocks my world.

It’s National Praline Day. It’s also Special Guest Star/Chef’s Day on the blog!!… oohhh ah, yes that’s right, I brought in a ringer! With that bit of titillation, I’m going to start with the former… and leave you in suspense for a bit!

Pralines are basically a syrup and nut confection, which have an interesting history and regionalism. As originally inspired in France at the Château of Vaux-le-Vicomte by the cook of the 17th-century sugar industrialist Marshal du Plessis-Praslin early pralines were whole almonds individually coated in caramelized sugar (as opposed to a sheet of caramelized sugar covering many nuts). French settlers brought this recipe to Louisiana, where both sugar cane and pecan trees were plentiful. During the 19th century, New Orleans chefs substituted pecans for almonds, added cream to thicken the confection, and thus created what became known throughout the American South as the praline. Southern i.e. american pralines (say “PRAW-leens” in your head!) take on quite a few shapes and sizes and are generally either creamy or chewy and have the consistency of fudge, with a gritty texture to coming from the sugar.

Back in Europe, the powder made by grinding up such sugar-coated nuts is called pralin, and is an ingredient in many cakes, pastries, and ice creams. When this powder is mixed with chocolate it becomes praliné in French, which gave birth to what is known in French as praline belge or “Belgian chocolates”. Therefore, if you ask for a praline in France, Belgium, Germany etc, you are most likely to get a filled chocolate! In the United Kingdom, the term can refer either to praline (the filling for chocolates) or, less commonly, to the original whole-nut pralines.

Thus, we’ve got a lot of latitude to play with today for National Praline Day. And I left the decision making to two of my favourite Victoria chefs! If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ve heard me enthuse about the food at Devour, this tiny bistro near my office. I’ve gotten to know Jena and Alison, the chefs and co-owners, via my many many visits. We were talking about the blog one day, and much to my delight, they offered to make something for it! So today I’m sharing with your pralines, Devour style.

This is what we're shooting for - light crunchy candy studded with nuts and chocolate (photo credit: Alison Bigg)

Alison said she stared with a recipe from epicurious [is it strange that it makes me feel better that the professional chefs occasionally just google things too?!?]. Of course, in true 365food style, there are a few modifications…

Pralines a la Devour!

Cocoa nib and Chili Praline

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon (packed) golden brown sugar
  • chilli flakes (!!) [Allison didn’t tell me how much to add – I think this may be a matter of taste/how hot your chillies are!]
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup cocoa nibs
  • 1/4 cup cashews, chopped

[Editorial Note: Allison said next time that she may try sprinkling the pralines with some maple smoked salt which she picked up at Defending Our Backyard, which I agree would be great – I like sweet and savoury together. So you may want to add that to your ingredient list!]

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk first 6 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Stir in cocoa nibs and chopped cashews.

Drop mixture by tablespoonfuls onto prepared sheet, spacing 1 inch apart. Bake until mixture spreads and is deep golden brown, about 18 minutes [though Allison reports she had to cook hers longer, to get a nice clear candy look to it]. The mixture will flow together into 1 piece on baking sheet!

Remove from oven; cool completely on sheet. Break praline into irregular pieces or shards.

Voila! Pralines a la Devour! (Photo credit: Alison Bigg)

The result was a thin crunchy clear candy studded with chocolate and nuts. It starts sweet, then you taste the nuts, and just when you think the bite is over there is a great gently kick of heat from the chilli peppers. Brilliant!

…but you don’t have to take my word for it. A whole batch of these pralines were made yesterday, and are being served today with vanilla icecream, at Devour. Stop on in and give this important holiday your full attention! You can also see what else the ladies are cooking today here (the menu is usually posted about 11 am, so be patient!). If indulging today is too last minute, I will also let you know that Devour is going to be open late all next week (8am – 8pm) to serve those of you out enjoying Jazzfest. Stop in for their mussels, you won’t be disappointed… better have some cheese too…

With big thanks to Alison and Jena,