It’s here. It’s finally here – Autumn! While the Pumpkin and Oktoberfest beers hit the shelves weeks ago, I have been patiently waiting for the weather to cool down. Well, that’s not entirely true. I haven’t been patient at all. Instead I found myself wishfully checking the 10-day weather report each morning in hopes of temperatures below 80 degrees. For weeks I had no luck – only humidity and thunderstorms and breathable clothes with waterproof shoes.
But this past week it finally happened and I couldn’t be more thrilled.
Now I’m anxiously checking the Fall foliage reports rather than the weather forecast and have started planning as many hikes and camping trips as possible before the snow starts falling. There’ll probably be some apple picking and goat petting in there too. This is definitely my favorite time of the year and I intend to squeeze in as much as possible.
First things first, though. Oktoberfest has been in full swing for a couple of weeks. So I made up for lost time and picked up several Oktoberfest bottles then cooked a German inspired feast.
When it comes to Oktoberfest, most people think of sausages and kraut of boots filled with beer. And while I love all of these things, they tend to make an appearance at every festival and are very difficult (although not impossible) to mess up. A good schnitzel on the other hand, well, that’s not as easy to come by.
Making schnitzel at home is easy, though! And well worth the effort.
It’s definitely easy to overcook pork, especially when it’s been pounded so thin. The trick is to make a flavorful beer brine which will keep the meat tender and juicy even after it’s been fried to crisp perfection. Believe you me, the difference is astounding.
1 lemon sliced into quarters + 1 additional lemon for serving
4 garlic cloves peeled and smashed
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 cup ice cubes
2 cups (16 ounces) dark lager beer
4 boneless pork chops
1½ cups all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
½ cup milk
4 cups panko bread crumbs
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons butter
In a medium pot, combine 2 cups water, salt, brown sugar, lemon, garlic, and thyme. Bring to a boil over high heat then simmer for 10 minutes. Once the salt and sugar have dissolved, remove from heat and set aside to cool for 15 minutes. Stir in the ice and beer. The brine should be 40°F. If warmer, place in the refrigerator to cool.
While the brine cools, place pork chops between two sheets of plastic wrap on a large solid surface. If using thick pork chops, it is helpful to butterfly them first. Using the flat side of a meat tenderizer, the back of a large pan (I find cast iron skillets to work exceptionally well), or a rolling pin, firmly and carefully pound them to an even ¼-inch thickness. Place pork chops and brine in a 1-gallon bag and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours.
To prepare the schnitzel, arrange three shallow dishes on the countertop (cake rounds and aluminum pie pans work well here). Place the flour in one dish and season with salt and pepper. Whisk eggs and milk together in the second dish and season with salt and pepper. In the third dish, add the panko bread crumbs and again season with salt and pepper. Dredge each piece of pork in flour, followed by the egg mixture, and then coat with bread crumbs. To ensure an even coating, hold the pork gently at one edge and allow any excess to fall back into the dish before moving to the next.
Lay the coated pork on a plate lined with parchment paper and refrigerate for 10 minutes. This will allow the coating to dry out a bit and better adhere to the pork.
Add oil and butter to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Taking care not to overcrowd the pan, add the pork chops and cook until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to paper towels to drain and season with salt. Repeat with remaining pork chops. To serve, garnish with lemon wedges and curly parsley and serve with a stein of German lager.