Saturday, August 28, 2010
Home Cooking: Hey, Good Lookin’
My mother used to sing this song while she was working in the kitchen, a place she really seemed to love to be. That must have been a trait she learned from her own mother, and one that got passed on to my sister, Sue. Didn’t happen though with me, and honestly not with my aunt Leona either it seems. Some girls naturally inherit the “I-love-to-cook gene.” Others do not, and that’s where you’ll find me.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I can cook; I just don’t particularly like to. But just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean I can’t cook up a dish or two that rank as some members of my family’s favorite meals. And it’s not all just cake and desserts, either, although they do seem to like that too.
When I started this series some time ago, I had people asking me for some of my favorite recipes, so today I’m going to share one with you. Others will come as the weeks follow. These are tried and true and my boys gobble them up like they haven’t eaten in weeks. Oh, for the days I used to have leftovers for sandwiches or a lunch to take to work!
The main course dish that I’m going to share actually has a story to go with its history.
In one of my early years teaching at Payson Jr. High School, we were having some sort of pot luck meal in which members of the faculty were supposed to bring a favorite dish. I knew I couldn’t make desserts to equal those my sister could make, rolls were out of the question, and the salad I might have made took overnight to prepare and I didn’t have that time luxury, so I decided to make up some breaded tenderloin to share.
This is something I knew how to cook without even thinking. Breaded tenderloin was probably the first thing my mother really taught me to cook, and I know it was the first dish I was asked to prepare all on my own for a family meal. I followed my mother’s exact recipe.
Buy pork tenderloin, sliced as thin as you can get them. Cut off any fat, place the tenderloin between two sheets of waxed paper and pound on the meat until it is paper-thin.
Dip the meat pieces into a well-beaten egg until it’s covered, then press each side onto a waxed paper where you’ve crushed crackers into nearly powder. (I use Ritz crackers; my mother used saltines.)
Heat an electric skillet to 350∘. Slowly place the cracker and egg-covered pieces into the skillet and let them begin to cook. When the side nearest the heat has started to turn golden brown, gently turn the meat over, cooking until the other side is the same color. Do NOT salt the meat at this time.
Repeat the process, allowing the meat to cook through and the coating to continue to brown on both sides. The third time you turn them, you may lightly salt each side.
At the end of t his final turn, the meat should be completely cooked, but cut open a tiny part in the center of the thickest piece of meat. If all looks good, then you are done and the breaded tenderloin is ready to serve.
Now, back to my story. I had made the tenderloin and brought them to this party at school. My humble offering was sitting on the table amid all sorts of fabulous looking dishes and I wondered if anyone but me would even want to eat any of this lowly meat. It didn’t take long in the line to find out.
Layne Blatter, our German teacher, was not far ahead of me, when I heard him exclaim, “Wienerschnitzel!”
Now the only time I had ever heard that word was when someone was referring to that hot dog place in Orem that served the best coney dogs I’d had since I stopped going to the Madison County fair. I wondered if someone had brought coney dogs to the party.
“Who brought the wienerschnitzel?” Layne asked, looking around for who might be the person responsible for this dish. All of us shrugged our shoulders, and no one claimed the be the cook. “I love wienerschnitzel,” he added.
We continued to go through the line, and I filled my plate, taking a piece of my own dish of meat. Then I took a seat at a table, only finding out a few minutes later when they came back from getting drinks that Layne and his wife would be sitting with me.
As Layne sat, he looked at my plate and saw my meat. “Did you make the wienerschnitzel?” he asked, pointed at my breaded tenderloin.
“That’s breaded tenderloin,” I said, a little confused.
“Not in Germany it isn’t,” he said before he took his first bite. He savored it like he had never tasted anything so good. “And you made it just right—just like I remember from Germany.”
A few minutes of conversation and I discovered that this dish that my mother used to make—one she had learned from her mother—came to us from our German ancestry, and that in that country what we knew as breaded tenderloin was known as wienerschnitzel.
“All those hot dog stands are wrong,” Layne told me.”Now, can you give me the recipe?”
I shared the same information I have given to you, and Layne went home a happy man. As a matter of fact, several times throughout the rest of the school year he stopped to tell me, “My wife made me wienerschnitzel last night, and I have you to thank!”
And I hope any of you who decide to try this recipe will feel the same. I know my boys do.