Schnitzel (Rántott hús)

This Italian-Austrian breaded veal cutlet has made its way deep into Hungarian kitchens, being a popular dish of Sunday family meals. When done right, a tender and juicy meat hides behind the thin, crispy crust. While the original recipe calls for veal escalopes, most people make it with more economical pork loin, chicken breast, or a ham-and-cheese filling (cordon bleu).

Ingredients

Yield: 4 servings; Total time: 45 minutes

For the schnitzels

  • 4 pieces of 140 grams (5 ounces) pork loin or veal, pounded into ⅓ cm (⅛-inch) thickness

  • 600 grams (1 ⅓ pounds) lard or clarified butter, or 1 liter (1 quart) vegetable oil

  • ½ cup all-purpose flour

  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten

  • 1 ½ cups finely ground breadcrumbs

  • Salt and pepper

  • 1 medium lemon, cut into wedges

  • Cucumber salad or pickles for the side

For the mashed potatoes

  • 1 kilo (2 pounds) potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 ½ cm (1-inch) chunks

  • 4 tablespoons butter

  • ½ cup whole milk, hot

  • Salt to taste

Directions

  • Step 1: Place meats on a cutting board and using a kitchen mallet, pound meat pieces into even ⅓ cm (⅛-inch) thin slices. Generously sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper, gently rub in with hands, and put aside for 10 minutes.

  • Step 2: Add lard or clarified butter (or vegetable oil) into a large frying pan and heat to medium-high (about 190 degrees Celsius or 375 Fahrenheit).

  • Step 3: In the meantime, place three shallow bowls side-by-side on the counter and fill with flour, beaten eggs, and breadcrumbs, respectively (bowls should be big enough to fit one piece of pounded meat). Take a piece of meat, lightly dust with flour its entire surface, then dip both sides into the beaten eggs, and finally coat generously in breadcrumbs.

  • Step 4: When lard (or butter or oil) has reached desired temperature, place a piece of meat inside (it should be covered by lard). Don’t crowd or layer the meats; it’s better to do one at a time. Fry meat until golden brown, about 3 minutes each side (flip it using tongs or a fork, being careful with the hot fat). Remove and place meat on a paper-towel-lined plate to absorb excess lard and let it cool for 10 minutes. Repeat for the other meat slices.

  • Step 5: Prepare mashed potatoes. Boil potato chunks in a large pot of simmering, salted water until potatoes are soft, about 15-20 minutes. Drain potatoes, and transfer to a dry pot. Using a masher, crush potatoes to a coarse paste, then add butter, milk, and salt to taste and mix. If you prefer creamy potatoes, use a hand or stand mixer and whip into a smooth mass.

  • Step 6: Serve the rántott hús on individual plates topped with a lemon wedge and a side of mashed potatoes and pickles or cucumber salad.

Words of advice

The lard’s temperature will drop each time you add a meat to it so be mindful that you'll have to adjust the heat so it stays around 190 degrees Celsius (375 Fahrenheit) — an instant-read thermometer is of great help here.

I created these recipes with the help of nearly a dozen historical Hungarian cookbooks, adjusting ingredients, cooking times, and methods to reflect my own preferences and tastes of the current day. Do you have any feedback? Please let me know!