I remember the first time I tried schnitzel. It was in Heidelberg, Germany, on a sunny day in May, 2001. I was studying abroad in Paris at the time, and was visiting a German friend for the weekend. Her parents took us to a lovely restaurant for lunch and I remember sitting outside on the terrace, eating a thin, crisply fried piece of veal served with a lemon wedge and a green salad. Her parents ordered a bottle of wonderful German white wine, and even though I was barely 21, I felt terribly grown up.


It was eight years before I tried schnitzel again. I was living in New York, and a colleague told me that her husband had just started a new food truck called Schnitzel & Things. Of course, I was intrigued. The memory of that golden fried cutlet had stuck with me all those years and I couldn't wait to try it again.

Once again, I was entranced. Only this time, instead of sitting on a sunny terrace, I stood outside a truck in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, and ate off a plastic plate. But it was so delicious I didn't care. I got to sample multiple types of schnitzel: pork, chicken, and cod, plus all sorts of delicious side dishes, like Austrian potato salad, cucumber salad, and red cabbage slaw. I loved Schnitzel & Things so much that I wrote about them for Tasting Table.

A couple years passed and I finally decided it was time to attempt my own schnitzel at home. How hard could it possibly be? You just pound some meat, dip it in egg, dip it in bread crumbs, and fry it. Easy, right? As it turns out, it is WAY easy. And tastes so incredibly good that it seems like you should have slaved away for hours. I've made it now a half dozen times or so, and have done a little experimentation to get the maximum flavor. I'm not a big veal fan in general, so I stick with pork, and thanks to a tip I read in Bon Appetit, I marinate the cutlets in red wine vinegar before frying them. I also use Panko – the larger, Japanese-style breadcrumbs – to give the schnitzel an extra crunch, and I add thyme and lemon zest for flavor.

Served with a lemon wedge and a simple green salad (and, if you really wanted to be authentic, a warm potato salad), this dish is simple, elegant, and unbelievably good. It's comfort food at it's best, preferably in the winter or spring. Plus, considering all the pounding required, it's a great stress reliever. So pour yourself a glass of Gruner Veltliner and get out that meat tenderizer. You'll feel like a new person in no time.