Wiener Schnitzel is a classic Austrian dish made from breaded and fried veal, traditionally served with a wedge of lemon. Accompaniments such as potato salad are also not uncommon with Wiener Schnitzel. In Austria and Germany, this dish is quite popular and very easy to find; many nations have their own regional variations ranging from vegetarian Wiener Schnitzel made with celery root to Swedish style Schnitzel with gravy.
In German, Wiener refers to the city of Vienna and Austria, while a Schnitzel is a cutlet. Although the dish is named for Vienna, Wiener Schnitzel probably originated in either France or Italy, with adventurous cooks bringing the recipe back with them; by the late 1700s, the dish was firmly established in Austria. The meat in traditional Wiener Schnitzel is tenderized veal which is sliced thin and then beaten to make it even more delicate, although variations with ham, chicken, and turkey can also be found. Vegetarians can use meat substitutes like textured vegetable protein or they may bread and fry dense vegetables like portobello mushrooms or root vegetables.
To make Wiener Schnitzel, cooks slice their meat of choice thinly and pound it to tenderize it before dredging it in flour; the flour may be seasoned with various spices, if desired. Next, the floured meat is dipped in beaten eggs and then rolled in breadcrumbs. The breaded cutlet is typically fried in lard, clarified butter, or another fat with a high smoking point until it is golden brown on both sides. Many cooks like to pat their Wiener Schnitzel with a towel to absorb some of the grease before serving it.
An assortment of things can be served with this classic Viennese dish, depending on the region where one consumes it. French fries, roast potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, pickled beets, eggs, anchovies, and capers are common pairings with Wiener Schnitzel, though not all at once. When prepared well, the dish is surprisingly light, despite being fried in oil; the trick is attaining a temperature which will sear the meat at the beginning, preventing the absorption of oil as the meat cooks through.
In Austria, this dish is a common offering at restaurants and cafes. Outside of Austria, casual pubs and cafes may serve Wiener Schnitzel, and the dish is traditionally included on the menus of establishments which specialize in Austrian cuisine. It can also easily be made at home, in which case cooks might want to experiment with the addition of interesting seasonings like paprika or thyme.