A Tribute: Chicken Schnitzel and Lettuce Salad

A change of plans posting-wise. Sorry to those looking for my quesadillas from Meatless Monday. I’ll post that one tomorrow for you.

I woke up this morning to the entirely unexpected news of the passing of my beloved Sabba, my mother’s father. I was not remotely prepared for the shock of this loss, and for how lonely its news would make me feel. I don’t live near my own family–my parents and brother (and sister in-law-to-be) live in Massachusetts, my cousins, aunts, and uncles are scattered throughout New England, Virginia, California, Mexico, Georgia… and Israel. My mother’s whole family lives more than an ocean away, which feels really far all the time, but unreachable and devastating in a moment of grief. Hallelujah for technology.

Jews grieve and heal with food. That’s a known fact, right? So lonely in my loss, only one dinner made sense to me tonight. It is a food memory so specific to my childhood and my Israeli grandparents’ home (and my mother’s home). It instantly transports me. I can smell my grandmother’s kitchen. I can hear my grandfather shuffling around the apartment. I hear the radio beeping the hourly news introduction and feel the warmth of the stove mixed with the thick breeze coming through the open living room windows. Isn’t food amazing sometimes?

Schnitzel was my favorite dinner growing up, and it has become one of my husband’s favorites now. And super bonus: it’s fool-proof, guaranteed, bona fide kid-friendly. Whoop! Tonight I also made my Savta’s lettuce salad and a side of sauteed grape tomatoes with spinach and arugula. Here it is:

For the Chicken
* thin chicken breast cutlets (buy the thin cuts rather than hammering down your own – comes out perfect every time; amount will depend on how many you’re feeding… I use about 1lb for 2 people, or approximately 2 cutlets per person)
* flour
* eggs
* bread crumbs (I use Italian seasoned)
* vegetable oil

For the Sauteed Veggies

* bag of spinach/arugula mix
* 1/2 pint grape tomatoes
* dry minced garlic
* lemon pepper

For the Salad
* Romaine or butter lettuce
* 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
* juice of one lemon
* 1-2T olive oil
* pepper or lemon pepper

Prepare a large frying or saute pan with a light layer of vegetable oil and set up an assembly line for the chicken: chicken, bowl of flour for dredging, bowl of lightly beaten eggs, plate of bread crumbs:

schnitzel1Amounts for the flour, egg, and bread crumbs will depend entirely on the quantity of chicken you’re making. I just pour some flour in a bowl, and bread crumbs on a plate, and usually start with two eggs. But I keep extra on hand in case I run low as I’m working. This is a very specific and fast-moving process once you start, so you want to make it as simple for yourself as possible.

Start by running two cutlets all the way through the assembly line: dredge fully in flour, coat in egg, and cover on both sides with bread crumbs. Then take one more through the egg wash, and another into the flour so they are ready to move onto the next stops as soon as you put the first two into the oil. Once you have chicken at each station and more on deck, go ahead and heat the vegetable oil you’ve prepared in the pan. Keep it medium to medium-low. When the oil is heated, place the first two breaded cutlets in the oil, and immediately shift the one in the egg wash to the bread crumb plate, the one in the flour to the egg and then to the bread crumbs, and start some more in the lineup (etc.). Fry each cutlet about 2 minutes per side, until golden:

schnitzel2This is why using the already thinly-prepared chicken breasts is best – it will cook through quickly and evenly and you won’t risk burning the outside for fear of undercooked chicken on the inside. Trust me on this one.

And that’s the whole shebang.

For the side of spinach-arugula-grape tomato, heat a little olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium-low heat, then add tomatoes. Once they start to soften and “pop,” throw in half the bag of spinach/arugula, and when that wilts, stir it up and then add the rest of the bag. When all of the greens are wilted, add dry minced garlic and lemon pepper to taste (I totally eye-balled this, so sorry for no quantities!). Stir it up and remove from heat so you don’t char your greens.

And for my Savta’s totally amazing lettuce salad, you just have to give this a shot. It sounds absurd, but I promise it won’t disappoint. Especially if you like garlic. Throw some lettuce in a bowl. Press and crush 3 (or more!) cloves of garlic right on top. Squeeze the juice of one super juicy lemon right on top, and add about 2T or so of olive oil. Season with just a little pepper or lemon pepper, to taste, toss and serve. Seriously. Just do it.

If I had to sum up comfort food on one plate, I guess it would be the concept behind this one… Anything that really evokes memory. And today, that’s just what I needed. That and another big, tight hug plus a hard squeeze on both cheeks from my perfectly adorable, incredibly loving, amazing and wonderful Sabba.

Ohevet kol kach.

Bete’avon (= bon apetit in Hebrew)

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