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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:

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

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Today’s treat is a Whiskey Sour. While I will get to the nitty gritty of this cocktail in a minute, I thought I should warm you that I’m going to be using this blog to explore the use of egg whites in cocktails.

Did you just say “yick!”?

Yeah, me too. Why bring this up? Well, when I was researching the perfect whiskey sour, it became clear that there are two camps – those who add egg whites to the drink, and those who don’t. Having never had a cocktail with egg white in it, I thought I had to investigate.

I quick buzz through the internet teaches me that it’s all about mouth feel. Egg whites are used to create a creamy and foamy texture to a drink. From the Art of the Drink:

Now …we can get down to why eggs, and egg whites particularly, help make a great cocktail. The main protein (ovalbumin), in eggs, is a tightly wound molecule and when it is shaken or beaten, it unravels. Think of shaking a big box full of slinkies and then trying to sort them out. That box will probably remain a stable mess for a while. When this happens in a cocktail shaker, the egg proteins do the same thing, they get all tangled up and this forms bubbles and foam.

Many of the drinks that use egg whites tend to be acidic, like sours, because the acid in the drink stabilizes the egg protein. This inhibits the proteins them from binding with each other, which makes for smaller bubbles and a better foam…Egg whites also don’t contribute much, if any, flavour to the cocktail.

Obviously – any use of raw eggs carries with it a risk, likely small, of salmonella. Since we’ve all been naughty and snuck raw cookie dough, I think we’ve all come to grips with this level of risk. But keep this in mind if you’re using egg whites – fresh well-handled eggs will be best!

So *how* do you used egg whites? I found this nifty little video tutorial for you! This is well worth the 50 seconds it takes to watch!

By the way, if you’re looking to experiment with eggs in cocktails, look for cocktails with “golden” or “silver” in the title: In classic cocktail terminology, “golden” appended to the name of a cocktail (as in “Golden Bronx”) often indicates the additional presence of egg yolk; “silver” (as in “Silver Bronx”) requests the additional presence of egg white in recipes otherwise without egg.

So: back to today’s task at hand, the whiskey sour. I made mine without egg whites (as I don’t eat eggs), in the following proportions:

  • 3 parts Bourbon whiskey
  • 2 parts fresh lemon juice
  • 1 part simply syrup

Shake with ice. Strain into ice-filled old-fashioned glass to serve “on the rocks.” Garnish with a cherry and a slice of orange.

The result was refreshing and surprisingly not too overpoweringly boozy. I would definitely serve this as a cocktail at a dinner party.

Just a note- if you order a whisky sour in a bar, 1/2 the time you’ll get it made with that green sour bartenders mix. This is NOT supposed to be what a whiskey sour is… send it back!

~Deanna

“Have Sauce, Will Travel”

Before I vanish into that other world for the rest of the week, I thought I would make a big rack of spareribs for the upcoming National Sparerib Day. Do you know that world of which I write? The one without high speed internet, digital cable (or regular cable) and other such luxuries. You will have to have an epicurean imagination as my cell phone is just that – a mobile phone. I can talk on it and D. just taught me how to text but I lack the ability to send photos. So before I disappear into the land of lakes, I’ll let you know what kind of spareribs I have on the go . . .

Spareribs are a particular cut of pork rib. You have your back ribs, and then there are baby back ribs (somewhat larger than back ribs) and finally there are spareribs. Spareribs are the larger cut taken from the “bottom” of the ribs of a piggy. Think of the ribs furthest away from the pig’s back or the ribs closest to it’s belly. You know – where bacon comes from!!!! If you would like a much more detailed explanation of the world of pork cuts follow the link from this pic:

http://www.virtualweberbullet.com/ribselect.html

I don’t usually buy spareribs as they are more expensive and come in a really large slab. However once I opened them up at home and I could see why they are so much nicer than regular back ribs. They are much thicker and meatier with more fat. The fat makes them perfect for slow roasting. After cruising the internet and my cookbooks for a rib recipe I had not tried, I decided to go with “Johnson’s Spareribs” from Epicurious.com. It appealed to me because of the lemony sauce with Tabasco and Cajun seasoning used as a rub. I don’t think I will put all 5 tablespoons of Tabasco in the sauce pot! Kids and all . . . could be a disaster!

I rubbed the Cajun seasoning into the ribs today and tomorrow I will cook them in the oven for about 2 hours, get packed up and then take them to the lake and finish them with the sauce on the barbeque. Don’t forget a case of mangoes for the lake!

I thought putting them on a layer of foil would help with a quick get away and then I could pack while they braised in the oven for 2 hours hours.

The very tangy, lemony sauce (with a stick of butter):

And now, this is where your imagination comes in. Imagine a large deck up in the poplar trees with the sounds of waves and kids yelling and people boating. A light breeze that only can be “the lake”. Imagine the smell of ribs sizzling on the barbeque with a tangy sauce being slathered all over them. A salad of garden greens, some roasted yams on the grill and a big loaf of garlic sourdough from the best bakery in Saskatoon. . . .

via Saskatchewan,
J

Eds: Via the wonder of text messaging, J was able to report that these ribs were “the best ever”. We have rib and cottage envy.