I have never been shy about my love of schnitzel. I once ate it twice a day for five days in a row in Vienna. Whenever I visit Germany, I need an immediate schnitzel infusion within hours of landing or I am not happy. If schnitzel is on the menu anywhere, I am hard-pressed not to order it. I don’t care if it’s veal, pork, or chicken.
Here in Chicago we used to have a magical little spot called Olga’s, ostensibly a neighborhood convenience store specializing in Polish merchandise, but really just an excuse for Olga and her sister to sell sandwiches and soup off a table in the back. The schnitzel sandwich at Olga’s was literally five lightly pounded chicken breast halves breaded and fried and stacked into a wall of schnitzel on white bread. It fed two hungry people to near explosion, and it was one of the single best sandwiches in existence. I miss it like a dull ache.
Recently my dear friend Chef Paul Fehribach of Chicago’s Big Jones restaurant made my husband and me a pork schnitzel dinner, and it was, as schnitzel should be, a portion of gargantuan abundance, nearly falling over the sides of the dinner plates. Garnished with a sauce of crème fraiche, mustard, and diced pickles, it was the platonic ideal of schnitzel. Despite our best efforts, and in part due to some extraordinary homemade spaetzle, we were unable to finish. Paul had also made us some lovely little dinner rolls, so the next day I looked at the rolls and the leftover schnitzel and sauce and thought that some sandwiches were in order. My husband looked at my lunch and asked, “Sliders?”
“No,” I replied, “schliders.”
If you love schnitzel as huge portions on a plate, you will also love smaller pieces of schnitzel on soft little buns with a schmear of sauce for an acidic bite and richness. Make them in large batches for parties or just as a little treat for yourself. These small schnitzel sandwiches are the opposite side of the coin from Olga’s, but they’re no less satisfying.
- 8 (2-oz.) portions of veal scallopini; pork tenderloin; or skinless, boneless chicken breast cutlets pounded to 1/8" thickness
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 large eggs
- 2 cups breadcrumbs or panko
- 2 Tbsp. grapeseed or canola oil, divided
- 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 (8-oz.) container crème fraiche
- ¼ cup Dijon mustard
- ¼ cup chopped cornichons or other dill pickle
- 8 small slider buns
Line a baking sheet or casserole dish with parchment paper. Season the meat on both sides with salt and pepper.
Set out three shallow dishes to create a dredging station. In the first dish, combine the flour with a couple pinches of salt and a few grindings of black pepper and mix until well blended. In the second dish, beat the eggs with a tablespoon of water until smooth. Place one cup of the breadcrumbs in the third dish and keep the second cup off to the side to add breadcrumbs as needed.
Working with one piece of meat at a time and keeping one hand for dry work and one for wet, dredge each piece in flour and pat off the excess. Then dip the meat into the egg mixture, turning to coat evenly. Finally, carefully coat with the crumbs, pressing gently to make sure the crumbs stick in an even coating. Transfer the coated cutlets to the prepared baking sheet.
In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, heat half of the oil and butter until the butter stops foaming. Add four of the meat cutlets to the skillet and cook until they’re deep golden brown on both sides, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer finished cutlets to a paper-towel-lined plate and season lightly with salt. Add remaining oil and butter to the skillet and repeat with the remaining cutlets.
In a medium bowl, combine the crème fraiche, Dijon, and chopped cornichons. Place about one tablespoon of this sauce on the bottom of each slider bun and top with a piece of schnitzel and the rest of the bun. Serve hot.