Chicken Schnitzel with Zigeuner Bell Pepper Sauce
Recipe and photo by Tami Ganeles Weiser
Prep Time: 25 minutes Cook Time: 30 minutes
Schnitzel, the fried, pounded veal dish that harkens to Austrian cuisine, is truly a foundational food in Israel. In addition to veal, it is often made of turkey or chicken. The sauce, however, is all European based, but would be at home in both Old World and New World kitchens.
Zigeuner Bell Pepper Sauce:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons tomato paste
6 large red, yellow, orange and/or green bell peppers, seeded, ribs removed, and cut into ½-inch strips (9 to 10 cups)
1 large onion, peeled and cut into ½-inch strips (about 1½ cups)
4 cloves garlic, peeled, cut in half, and grated, any green centers removed
2 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika
2 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon hot Hungarian paprika, plus more to taste (optional)
½ cup low-sodium chicken stock
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons honey
3 cups olive oil
½ cup cornstarch
2 teaspoons salt, divided
3 teaspoons dry mustard powder
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
3 large eggs
1 cup plain bread crumbs
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
8 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, (about 3 pounds), pounded to ½-inch thickness
- Make the sauce: Heat the oil in a large saucepan set over high until it shimmers. Create a roux by whisking in the flour until the mixture is a warm blond color. Whisk in the tomato paste and cook for 30 seconds. Add the peppers, onion, and garlic and stir to coat. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the sweet Hungarian paprika, smoked paprika, and hot paprika, if using, and the chicken stock. Stir to fully combine. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare the chicken: Heat the oil in a deep 8-inch-wide skillet set over high heat; affix a thermometer to the skillet and heat until it reaches 360°F to 365°F (see Kitchen Tips).
- While the oil is heating, set up 3 shallow bowls near the stove top. In the first bowl, combine the cornstarch, 1 teaspoon salt, the mustard powder, and paprika and stir to combine. In the second bowl, beat the eggs lightly with 2 teaspoons water. In the third, combine the the plain breadcrumbs, panko, and the remaining salt and stir to combine. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and line another with paper towels.
- Dip a chicken breast half into the cornstarch mixture, and tap off any excess. Then dip it into the egg. Finally, dip it into the breadcrumbs, turning and patting well to coat each side. Place onto the parchment-line baking sheet and repeat with the remaining chicken breast halves.
- Gently place the chicken breast halves into the hot oil, a few at a time, making sure not to crowd the skillet, and with a spoon, begin to baste the top of the cutlet with the oil from the pan until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Turn the cutlet over and continue to cook while basting for 1½ to 2 minutes, or until the internal temperature registers 165°F on an instant-read meat thermometer. Place on the towel-lined baking sheet. (Do NOT put it back on the parchment-lined baking sheet where the raw chicken was! See Kitchen Tip.) Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if desired. Repeat with the remaining chicken breast halves.
- Finish the sauce. Add the lemon juice, zest, and honey and stir well.
- To serve, place a piece of chicken schnitzel on each plate and drizzle each with at least ¼ cup of the sauce or pass the sauce on the side.
- If you don’t have a kitchen thermometer, you can heat the oil over medium heat and carefully drop in a small piece (about an inch square) of bread. If it turns brown all over and floats to the surface in 60 seconds, the oil is about 350°F to 365°F. If it browns sooner, the temp is higher: 20 seconds and it’s somewhere between 382°F and 390°F; 40 seconds and it’s between 365°F and 382°F.
- Always use a fresh plate for fully cooked meat, poultry or fish; NEVER place it back on the plate that held it when it was raw, as the original plate holds uncooked juices that might carry foodborne bacteria. These microorganisms are killed during cooking, but placing the cooked meat back into the uncooked juices can contaminate them and cause foodborne illness.
- Zigeuner means Gypsy, and in culinary usage, refers to the cooking style of that ethnic group, but that term can be construed as derogatory. They are a varied group and still suffer under many restrictions and difficult living conditions.