These simple but tasty cutlets are a staple everywhere you go in Israel.
It’s a relatively new item on the Israeli menu, an adaptation of the veal schnitzel from Germany. Israelis of every stripe took to it quickly, substituting poultry. We have very tender feelings toward schnitzel. It’s a homey, simple dish, but has to be just so.
Chicken or turkey fillets must be pounded thin by the butcher. Fish is likewise filleted. The bread crumb crust must be crisp and golden, protecting the flavorful meat, which must be cooked until there’s no more pink inside, but is never, ever, dried out or greasy.
You may marinate the fillet in lemon juice, or not; season the flour with a trace of turmeric or paprika, or not; add mustard to the beaten eggs as you choose – but the final result should be a juicy slice of meat covered in a light, gratifyingly crunchy crust.
Thousands of such schnitzels are served up every day in Israel. You’ll find them on a dish, next to French fries and ketchup and a good chopped salad. Or tucked into a pita with that same salad, plus pickles, to eat out of hand. Housewives cooking dinner, roadside kiosks serving factory workers at lunchtime, every kind of little eatery downtown where you pop in for a quick meal – they all know the schnitzel.
- 2 pounds chicken fillets, pounded thin
- 1 cup flour and more if needed
- 2 beaten eggs
- 1 tablespoon prepared mustard
- 1.5 cups dry bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup sesame seeds
- Salt and pepper to season the fillets
- Plenty of oil for frying; safflower or sunflower oil are good
- 1 teaspoon paprika (optional)
- Juice of 1 lemon (optional)
Season the fillets with salt and pepper. If marinating in lemon juice, do so now, and set aside.
Heat oil for deep frying in a large skillet. It will be hot enough when it shimmers and a drop of water skips on the surface.
Put the flour in a medium bowl. Mix the eggs and mustard until smooth. Mix the bread crumbs, optional paprika and sesame seeds and put in a large bowl or platter.
Fry in batches, breading only as many fillets as will fit into the skillet each time.
Dip each fillet in flour, making sure that there are no bare spots. It helps to use tongs or a fork for this.
Dip into the egg/mustard mix. Immediately, dip into bread crumbs. Again, make sure that the entire surface is covered.
Fry the schnitzels until the crust is golden, 3-4 minutes. Remove to a platter lined with crumpled newspaper or paper towels.
Serve hot, with ketchup.