Sunday, December 2, 2012

Wiener Schnitzel

I found myself staring at a pound of veal cutlets from the butcher. I hadn't opened the package, but I have yet to find something from my butcher that isn't gorgeous. But what to make with it? If I had more I could have done this or that or the other. But a pound for two people limits what you can do. Then I thought- well, I haven't had Wiener schnitzel in a few years. Seemed like a good idea. I unwrapped the package to find that the butcher had actually sliced the veal into 6-7mm thick large slices. It seemed that he also thought that schnitzel would be appropriate.

You'll need:

1 pound veal
2 big eggs
2 sticks butter.

If you aren't lucky like me to have thin veal, you'll need to butterfly the meat and pound it flat with a mallet. You're going for really thin- 1/4th-1/3rd of an inch for my fellow Americans.

Dredge the veal in flour. Whip the eggs. Coat the veal in the eggs. Gently dredge the veal in the breadcrumbs- don't press the breadcrumbs into the meat (it moistens them and prevents them from getting crispy). 

Melt a stick of butter in a saute pan. You should have enough veal to split into four batches. Put batch one into the pan for 4-5 minutes, then flip for another 4-5 minutes. Remove to a paper-towel covered plate. Repeat for second batch. By this point, the butter in the pan will be getting a bit icky. Pour it into the sink. Melt second stick of butter and repeat process.

Serve with freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Some notes: traditionally you cook the schnitzel in clarified butter, but I can't be bothered. Feel free to use more butter- if possible, you want to use enough that the meat is pretty much floating in the butter. 

I found myself without breadcrumbs, but that veal had to be made. Searching the cabinets frantically, I found that we had a large can of crispbread from my sister's recent visit. I dropped most of it into my mortar and bashed it until it became breadcrumbs. Very flavorful! I have to recommend playing around with different kinds of bread, it really adds to the recipe.

Thanksgiving in Namche -or- Cooking with Altitude

On Wednesday the 21st I was having lunch with the Girls atThe Nest (I recommend the chicken sizzler) when it dawned on me that Thanksgiving was the next day. So I rather glibly said "Oh! We need to do Thanksgiving Dinner tomorrow".

Note for those who do not go trekking/mountaineering - Namche Bazar is at 3450m high in the Himlaya in Nepal.

Next thing you know, advertising was up and Sushila and I were scratching our heads trying to figure out what we could make.

My initial thought had been that we would buy a bird and have it slaughtered but those birds are really too rangy and are better for the pot than the pan. So instead we bought 2 frozen chickens. The problem then was how to defrost them when the ambient temperature is below freezing. In the end, we sat them in a sun well for a few hours.

And then poured boiling water over them and turned them every so often for an hour or so.

Once they were mostly defrosted, the next challenge was to butcher the beasts. I asked for butchers shears but was handed a huge cleaver and a ghurka knife. So rather than be a danger to myself and others I handed the birds and knives to the kitchen girl.

She then proceeded to pull out a small block of wood which she placed on the floor then she perched the carcass on the wood and I pointed out to her where to cut. I swear to you we washed the chicken pieces very well after this procedure. Then dried them well. I sliced up some limes on the baking tray then placed the chicken pieces on top, rubbing in salt, pepper and chilli powder.

Then popped into the oven at 240C for 1:15 minutes. This had to be done in 2 batches as we had so much chicken and such a small oven. Plus as soon as anything is cooked it starts to freeze so the idea was to precook everything and then heat it up again just before serving.

Other dishes prepared included sauteed chinese cabbage.

With fried SPAM.

And mashed potatoes. They were a challenge as well since the girl had never heard of them and we didn't have proper ingredients other than the potatoes themselves.

Of course it didn't help that by the time the potatoes were cooked and peeled they were freezing cold again. Anyway, while I had the girl mashing away I added 2 cans of canned cream, then melted and added a packet of something halfway between butter and margarine. Then we switched places with me mashing/whipping while she made powdered milk which I then whipped in. I'll be honest - it tasted a bit odd but I knew I would be deglazing the chicken pan to make a proper gravy and that will hide a myriad of sins.

We also cooked some of the local sweet potatoes and I made up a batch of honeyed carrots. Sushila made a big salad with lettuces, tomatoes, and radishes from her greenhouse that she served with fresh garlic croutons and 2 apple pies were baked.

All that was left was to set the tables and call in the guests.

I, of course, made my usual little speech about the true meaning of Thanksgiving and everyone tucked in. It was all well cooked with a crisp and yummy skin on the chicken, noone got ill, and we proved that it could be done - Thanksgiving Dinner at Altitude with Local ingredients.

The big lesson, I think, is that when cooking at altitude everything will take longer and need a higher temperature to cook.

I'd also like to say a big, grateful thank you to Sushila for allowing me to take over her kitchen and for putting up with my madness. ;-)

Final note: I am also cross-posting this to my trekking blog at ABC2EBC