When is a schnitzel not a Wiener schnitzel? When you make it Holstein-style!
Food lovers talk a lot about "secret menus" at their favorite restaurants (usually fast-food places) that clue people in on all sorts of special variations they order -- only if they know about them. But even at fine restaurants, like my original Spago in Beverly Hills, there are secret items that anyone with the inside knowledge can ask for. One of the biggest secrets is the fact that, whether it happens to be on the day's menu or not, you can get a Wiener schnitzel, the thin, crisply breaded and deep-fried veal cutlet that's a specialty of Austria's capital, Vienna (or Wien in my native language).
I find it interesting, though, when people refer to the dish simply as a schnitzel, because that word is too broad to refer to the Viennese favorite alone. When translated, schnitzel means "little slice." And in meaning it's no different from the most common English equivalent: "cutlet." Like cutlets, schnitzels can be made from a wide variety of meats beyond veal, including pork, chicken and turkey; in fact, growing up, my mother and grandmother usually made them for us with pork, far less expensive than veal.
The variety doesn't end there, either. There are also so many different styles of schnitzel recipes across Austria and Germany. Depending on the restaurant and the region, you might find dishes like zigeuner (gypsy-style) schnitzel sauteed with tomatoes, peppers, and onions; Munchner (Munich-style) schnitzel lightly spread with horseradish or mustard underneath its breadcrumb coating; Jager (hunter-style) schnitzel, smaller slices sauteed and served with a woodland mushroom sauce; and so many more.
One of my favorite schnitzels, however, is a Holsteiner version. It was first created in a Berlin restaurant in the late 19th century for an important customer, German statesman Friedrich von Holstein. It appears he liked rich, piquant flavors, for his schnitzel was first lightly floured and then sauteed in both butter and oil; then, the pan drippings were transformed into a sauce with chicken stock, concentrated veal stock (for which I substitute a little barbecue sauce), lemon juice and capers; and finally served topped with a fried egg and garnish of anchovy fillets (which you can certainly omit if you aren't a fan).
I know this may all seem unusual at first. But think about it and you might suddenly realize that your mouth begins to water. Mine does. It's a delicious combination of flavors. It's also much easier to make than a Wiener schnitzel, requiring no deep frying. I haven't yet added it to any secret menus in my restaurants. But you never know...
HOLSTEINER SCHNITZEL WITH FRIED EGG
4 boneless slices veal or pork cut from the leg or loin, each 6 to 7 ounces (185 to 215 g)
1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour