One of my all-time favorite things is a simple French-style tender greens salad dressed with a simple shallot vinaigrette. I’ll eat it with anything, but I discovered this past winter, while visiting my brother in Los Angeles and cooking a last-minute dinner from his oddly stocked refrigerator, that I love it best paired with crisp potato pancakes.
Beyond potato pancakes, this little brasserie-staple is a fried food’s best friend. It’s light and tangy, making it the perfect accompaniment to ultra-rich crispies. This week, I was craving schnitzel, thanks to something I saw on Netflix, most likely, and knew exactly how I wanted to eat it.
I chose pork, because, why not, but of course, you can make your schnitzel with chicken breasts or veal chops. I don’t really have a reason for calling it schnitzel over fried pork chops (or cutlets, as my family in New Jersey would definitely say), so you call it whatever feels right.
Tradition and food-rules call for the standard breading procedure to include an initial dredge in flour, then egg, and then breadcrumbs. I’m going to admit that at home, I often skip the flour step, because it feels like a waste of time/dirty dishes. In the interest of giving you the best version of this recipe, I experimented and used flour for half of my cutlets (also from New Jersey) and tried half without to see if there was a big difference.
And, um, there was! They looked exactly the same, hence no photographic evidence to blow your mind, but the texture was really dramatically better in the finished schnitzel that was first dredged in flour. The breading felt more substantial without being thick and gummy. Knowing this, I might use flour more often at home, but keep in mind: the ones without the flour were still really delicious and crispy, which breading the held tight to the pork, so don’t get hung up on that extra step if you’re out of flour.
We ate leftovers with braised collard greens, but they’re also handy for sandwiches (with collard greens, if you have double leftovers!), as a decadent salad topper, or with macaroni and cheese and Saucy Susan, if you’re my mom.
So, if now you’re craving crispy schnitzel, here’s what you’ll need for four servings:
- 1 small shallot, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar – white wine or champagne vinegars would also be great
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Honey, to taste (optional)
- 4 thick-cut boneless pork chops, pounded to about 1/4-inch thick
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
- 3 eggs
- 2 to 3 cups bread crumbs – panko is great for extra-crispy breading, but I only had “regular” dried bread crumbs on hand, and this was still delicious
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil, or as needed for frying
- 2 heads butter lettuce, torn into pieces
- 3 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced – English (seedless) cucumbers will also work, as will cucumbers that are full of seeds!
- 4 red radishes, very thinly sliced – these are gilding the lily. This salad is amazing with literally just the lettuce, so add the radishes only if you love them!
- 4 lemon wedges, for serving
- Flaky finishing salt, like Maldon, for serving
- In a small food processor, combine the shallot, vinegar, and mustard. Pulse until smooth. With the machine running, slowly stream in the olive oil to form a smooth emulsion. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and add honey if you would like a little sweetness. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, place the flour, eggs, and bread crumbs in three separate shallow bowls. Season all three bowls with salt and pepper. Beat the eggs well.
- Bread the pork by first dredging in the flour until well coated, then in the egg wash, and then in the breadcrumbs. Repeat with all four pieces of pork, transferring to a large platter as done.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, adding more as needed for the bottom of the skillet to be completely covered by about 1/8-inch. Place a rack inside a baking sheet or line a baking sheet with layers of paper towel.
- When the oil is shimmering, add the breaded pork, working in batches as needed to avoid crowding the pan, and cook until the pork is browned on both sides, about 3 minutes on each side. Transfer the pork to the prepared baking sheet.
- In a large serving bowl, combine the lettuce, cucumbers, and radishes. Dress the salad to your preference (you may not use it all) and toss gently to combine.
- Serve the schnitzel with salad on the side. Squeeze the lemon over the pork and season with finishing salt, if you like.
- If you happen to be making a big batch of this (it’s a nice casual dinner party recipe!), leave your oven set low, about 250°F, and transfer the fried pork to the oven as done. This will keep them crisp while you fry a bigger batch.
- This salad wilts FAST (as seen in my photo above!), so only dress it at the last minute. Because the greens are so tender, you’ll also want to avoid your salad spinner, patting the leaves dry with paper towels instead.
- I sometimes add fresh herbs to this salad, and especially love sprigs of dill.