Austria. A country so beautiful, it’s as if you stepped into a dream. The Von Trapp family certainly knew what they were doing setting up camp there. Though Jon and I technically kicked off our European holiday in Zurich – the most expensive 11 hours of our life – our first full day was spent in Vienna, or Wien as Austrians call it.
A pristine, dog-friendly city full of pedestrian lanes, stunning architecture and places of business that close down early – the Austrian way of life is slow and laid back, which is unfortunate for us considering we only had two days to fit everything in and absorb the culture. There are so many historical and beautiful sites, and we did our best to see it all.
But more importantly, we should discuss the food. This was Jon’s favorite country by far, and not only for the dramatic, sweeping landscapes – which are unlike anything I have ever seen – but more for the German cuisine. Jon grew up eating this type of food, so he was anxious to savor pork, sauerkraut, bread dumplings and brats. We ate plenty of it too, along with some of the best potato salads and soups I’ve ever had. Who knew potato salad could be such a revelation? We also made time visit the Sacher Hotel to enjoy a slice of their Sachertorte, a rich, chocolate cake served with a generous dollop of fresh whipped cream, made famous in 1832.
And of course, no trip to Vienna would be complete without making a stop to Figlmüller, home to some of the finest, and largest, Wiener Schnitzel around. The Wiener Schnitzel here is no joke. Figlmüller takes great pride in ensuring each schnitzel is pounded to an impressive 30 cm in diameter (that’s almost 12-inches for you Americans reading this). Each schnitzel, veal or pork are the choices here, are served with a deceptively simple salad. Mixed greens, shredded cabbage and carrots, onions, tomato wedges and cucumber topped with a velvety potato salad and tangy vinaigrette – like I said, deceptively simple. Yet, it’s one of the dishes I remember most from my entire 18 days spent abroad.
Thinking back on it, Jon and I spent a good amount of our 48 hours in Vienna sampling the Viennese fare, but that’s one of my favorite things about vacation – getting to try different types of food made so authentically that it would be almost impossible to have anything like it back home. That’s why I’m trying to recreate our most memorable meals from each city we were lucky enough to visit. I’m trying my very best to capture a little piece of our vacation.
Somehow, even with all the eating, we managed to see so much that Vienna has to offer. With intricate cathedrals, sprawling palaces, beautiful parks and endless landmarks, Vienna is a country full of rich history and sites aplenty. Here are some of the highlights that should make your list if you’re ever lucky enough to visit Vienna:
- Hofburg Palace – the expansive estate that belonged to the Hapsburgs
- Palmenhaus – the butterfly house on-site at Hofburg Palace
- St. Stephens Cathedral – in the heart of Vienna
- Schrönbrunn – the Austrian version of Versailles (make sure to plan a visit to the Tiergarten, an on-site zoo which also happens to be the oldest zoo in the world!)
- The State Opera House – located next door to the Sacher hotel, so plan your trip accordingly
- Hit up some of the immaculately manicured parks: Burggarten, Volksgarten, Karlsplatz, Rathausplatz and Stadtpark, the largest and most scenic with a few places to stop and grab a bite
- Meinl am Graben – a gourmet Mecca for foodies
Recipe inspired by Figlmüller
Figlmüller claims to use pork tenderloin for their schnitzel, but I used 2-inch thick loin chops, butterflied, then pounded as thin as I could possibly get them. Perhaps using a more tender cut of meat, like the tenderloin, would make it possible to reach the 30-centimeter diameter standard set forth by Figlmüller. Either way, the final product is tender, yet crisp, and utterly delicious.
4, 2-inch thick pork loin chops, butterflied
3 Kaiser rolls
1 ¼ cups flour
3 tsp kosher salt
1 ½ tsp pepper
2-3 cups of vegetable or canola oil
1 lemon cut into wedges
¼ parsley, chopped
1. Working one pork chop at a time, lay the butterflied chop open and flat on a cutting board, between two sheets of plastic wrap. Using a meat mallet, heavy frying pan or rolling pin, pound out the pork chop until it is at least less than ¼-inch thick. Put some muscle into it! Repeat with the remaining chops.
2. Try to buy the Kaiser rolls a day in advance, but if you have to do your shopping the day of, and your rolls are fresh, pre-heat the oven to 250˚F. Using a food processor, pulse the rolls, adding one at a time, into fine breadcrumbs. Lay the crumbs out on a large baking sheet and bake for approximately 12 minutes or until they are dried out. Set aside to cool.
3. Using another baking sheet (with edges) or a large, shallow dish, mix the flour, salt and pepper together. Lightly beat the eggs together in another shallow dish. Line the flour, eggs and breadcrumbs up to form a sort of assembly line. Dredge each pork chop in the flour, dip in the eggs and then dredge each side in the breadcrumbs, making sure to cover completely. Set aside.
4. Pour 2 cups of oil into a large frying pan and heat to 350˚F. Use a candy thermometer to ensure accuracy – you don’t want the oil to be too hot! Fry the pounded chops one at a time, for about 1 to 1 ½ minutes per side, or until golden brown. It doesn’t take long to cook the pork all the way through since they’re so thin. Add more oil as needed in between frying and make sure to maintain a steady temperature of 350˚F. Set each schnitzel on a paper towel to drain of excess oil.
5. Garnish each Wiener Schnitzel with chopped parsley and a lemon wedge. Serve immediately with Austrian Mixed Potato Salad and Enjoy!
Makes 4 servings
If you’re interested in the Austrian Mixed Potato Salad recipe, also inspired by Figlmüller, leave a comment below along with your email address, and I’ll send it to you!