Austria's fondness for this dish cannot be explained by preparation. Nor can it be explained by history. It is most certainly not rational. Wiener Schnitzel isn't a piece of veal; it is a part of Austria.
It is nourishment for the Austrian soul. For centuries, it has been a saviour and life-saver during difficult times. It is the gold that makes us shine. The shimmer of joy that makes Austria into a happy Austria. We have it to thank for our passion, which has earned a permanent place in our kitchens and our hearts. It is our true love, which we would now like to celebrate with you. We like to sum it up as "Schnitzel love". Because everybody needs Wiener Schnitzel in their life.
You can't get much more Vienna than its world-famous Wiener Schnitzel. That's why we at Meissl & Schadn are committed to its perfect preparation. Our aim is to pan-fry the best Schnitzel in Vienna. To live up to our self-imposed standards, we set out, with relish, to discover what makes the best Wiener Schnitzel.
The art of the perfect Schnitzel starts with the ingredients. A Wiener Schnitzel doesn't have to be local, but to go by that name, it must be made using high-quality veal. For taste reasons, and because the Austrian Food Code says so. And we want it to stay that way.
If you want to do it right, as we do, choose a tender cut from the lean topside of the veal, just as we do at our Vienna restaurant. Butterfly the lean and delicate piece of meat, without cutting all the way through, and then open it up.
The next step, pounding the cutlets, is absolutely essential for tender veal Schnitzel. If you hear the sound, you can be confident that the house does it right. The characteristic beat is created when cutlets are expertly pounded into Schnitzel. A meat pounder helps create an even, flat piece while retaining the meat's structure. The meat needs less time in the pan and it browns gently and evenly. It's not uncommon for your heart to keep time with the beat of the meat pounder, and if you've had enough practice, you'll even develop a certain grace as you work in anticipation of what's to come. This is how the sound develops into music to our Austrian ears.
The quality of the meat is the number one priority, but the breading is what makes this dish golden. There are three ingredients used to dredge the meat after it is seasoned with a pinch of salt. The first is flour. The second is a cage-free egg, beaten with a fork or whisk, but never with a mixer. The third ingredient is breadcrumbs, ideally freshly grated from day-old kaiser rolls. Incidentally, this breadcrumb coating is called "Panier", which also happens to be what the Viennese call the clothing they wear to their magnificent concert halls and theatres – their tasteful coats, if you will.
The frying itself is another aspect of the artfulness that characterises authentic Wiener Schnitzel. We use the finest butter, rich lard or neutral vegetable oil – your choice – as a delicious hot bath that gives the Schnitzel its even, golden colour. This creates the characteristic billows in the breading, which chefs and Schnitzel fans refer to as the soufflé effect. Potato salad, cucumber salad or buttered, fried potatoes garnished with parsley are served on the side. Viennese chefs haven't come to an agreement. Luckily, at our restaurant, we leave the choice up to you. We offer all three options.
If you'd like your Schnitzel served the way Stefan Zweig, Arthur Schnitzler and Sigmund Freud would have eaten it at Meissl & Schadn, you can order it with a Viennese garnish of parsley, shallot, lemon fillets, capers,
egg and anchovy fillets, perhaps making it the best Wiener Schnitzel in Vienna.
Cut from veal, our Wiener Schnitzel is dredged in cage-free eggs and breadcrumbs from an artisanal Bakery. Fried golden brown in the finest butter, rich lard or neutral vegetable oil it is served with your choice of garnishes: Potato salad, cucumber salad or parsley potatoes. If you'd like your Schnitzel served traditionally, you can order it with a Viennese garnish of parsley, shallot, lemon fillets, capers, egg and anchovy fillets.
As is befitting a legend, there are many myths, and even more speculation, surrounding the origin of the original Wiener Schnitzel. The trail even goes back as far as Byzantium, where food was sometimes decorated with gold leaf. When this practice became difficult to justify financially during times of famine, inventive cooks began using breadcrumbs to at least maintain the golden appearance.
In Austria, people surprisingly hold onto the story that Wiener Schnitzel actually comes from Milan and has its origins in the "costoletta milanese". Field Marshal Radetzky is said to have enthusiastically imported it to Austria from Lombardy, introducing it at the imperial court in 1849.
Neither of these has been proven. What is certain is that meat has been breaded since the Middle Ages, including in Vienna. Chicken fried in breadcrumbs was a staple for Ignaz Gartler in the 18th century. And we can assume that it was equally common to bread other types of meat. Fried veal cutlets were first called Wiener Schnitzel by Magdalena Rettig in her 1831 Austrian cookbook, "Die Hausköchin", or "The Home Cook". Wiener Schnitzel was born. And for us, it's here to stay. After all, it's named after our city. We wouldn't have it any other way.