Welcome to Olympic Feasts at The Schell Cafe!
During the 2012 London Games, we’ll celebrate with meals and stories from around the globe.
I’m honored to have friends sharing special recipes each day during the feast.
Today, I’m delighted to introduce you to my friend Beth Zacharias Hunt. I just did the math and it turns out Beth and I’ve known each other for twenty years. Although I feel like I’ve known her since the day this precious photo was taken. I could fill an entire post with lists of Beth’s accomplishments and successes that make me so proud of my friend. But she’d hate that and probably die of embarrassment. So, I’ll just tell you she’s wonderful and leave it at that.
When you live in a military family that moves every three years, you find your stability where you can. This Air Force kid found it in holiday traditions. Because even though Thanksgiving dinner might be served on a different continent, the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and such tasted the same as they did every year.
It made me feel like I was home.
My very favorite holiday tradition – which my family celebrates to this day – came from Frau Schmidt, a German nanny who cared for me while my family was stationed in Germany the first time. Each Christmas Eve, her family welcomed a gathering of family and friends to their table, to celebrate a Birthday Party for Jesus.
The menu was traditional German fare: Wienerschnitzel, spaetzel with butter and parsley, a German dinner salad with marinated green beans and bröchen, a hard dinner roll. Dessert was a pastry or German chocolate cake.
When we came back stateside, my family brought the tradition with us, adapting it in ways that fit our life in the United States. It continued until my brother and I both left the nest – a time that seems particularly perilous for family traditions, no matter whose family you’re in.
A few years ago, after my husband, our Urchin and I settled in Charlotte, North Carolina, we picked it up again. I learned to make the meal, which is one of my favorite annual duties, and we began gathering family and friends around our Christmas Eve table.
To make it our own, we added a new tradition to the Birthday Party for Jesus.
Before dinner, we all gather in a circle, join hands and each give the Christ child a birthday gift in the form of a simple promise to do something specific and good for someone else in the coming year. We say it out loud and to each other. Of course, He hears us, too.
It’s an emotional time for all of us, especially when the wee ones impress us with their compassion and love for their neighbor. I love that our Christmas begins with a celebration to remind us what it all means.
veal cutlets, 1/4 to 1/3 pound per person
salt and pepper
oil for frying
lemons for serving
**Pound the meat evenly to ¼-inch thickness for best results.
Set up 3 shallow dishes: one with the flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt; one with eggs beaten well; one with breadcrumbs seasoned with salt and pepper.
Heat at least 1/2 inch of oil in the pan to 350°F. Make sure the breaded meat can “swim” in fat. Contrary to instinct, the breading will take on less oil than if the meat is sticking to the pan. Also, the breadcrumb topping has a chance to puff up a little, and your clean up is easier!
Working one at a time, dredge cutlets first in flour until the surface is completely dry. Dip in egg to coat, allow the excess to drip off for a few seconds and then roll quickly in the breadcrumbs until coated. **Do not press the bread crumbs into the meat. The crust should not adhere completely, but form a loose shell around the schnitzel.
Fry the schnitzel for 3-4 minutes on one side. You may want to swish them around a little with your fork to make sure they are not sticking to the pan. Turn them over once and fry until both sides are golden brown. Remove from pan, allow the oil to drain off. Serve with lemon slices.
(serves 4; I always double or triple or quadruple)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. In another mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and milk together. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the egg-milk mixture. Pull in the flour from the sides and combine well; the dough should be smooth and thick. Let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
Salt 4 quarts of water in a large pot. Bring to boil, then reduce to a simmer.
To make the spaetzle, hold a slotted spoon or colander with large holes over the water and push the dough through the holes with a spoon or other implement, working in batches so you don’t overcrowd the pot. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the spaetzle floats to the surface, stirring gently to prevent sticking. Dump into a colander and rinse with cold water.
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat and add the spaetzle. Toss to coat and cook for 1-2 minutes, until it picks up some color. Top with chopped chives and season with salt and pepper before serving.
Chef’s note: If you’d rather use one, there are many spaetzel makers on the market at a whole bunch of different price points.
Beth (& Kristin)