Wiener schnitzel is deceptively simple, but like most such dishes, there is a secret knowledge about how to properly prepare it. Bad weiner schnitzel is cafeteria food, or worse. At its best, however, this is one of life’s simple joys: The meat is tender and can be cut with a fork. The breading crispy, not greasy, and the squirt of lemon adds that zing the dish needs.
If you’ve never pounded your own cutlets before, read the directions below before you start. It really helps to have a rubber mallet or a meat mallet around, but you can use an empty wine bottle or a small pot. Lemons are a must here, and remember that real wiener schnitzel does not have a sauce! Lots of other schnitzel recipes do, like jaeger schnitzel, for example, but not this one.
Serve this with a simple green salad, bread, potato salad or boiled potatoes. And make lots of cutlets: They are awesome eaten cold as a sandwich filling the next day.
Set out a work surface and lay a pheasant breast on a piece of plastic wrap. Lay another piece of plastic wrap over the breast and pat it down to seal. Pound the meat out into a very flat cutlet, about 1/4 inch thick. Take your time, hitting the meat with about the same force as knocking on a door. Work from the center of the meat outward. If you are using pheasant or chicken, you will need to pound the thick end of the breast more than the thin end; pork or veal medallions should be evenly cut. Do one breast at a time. When you are finished with one, remove the top layer of plastic wrap and set it aside. As you finish more, stack them. (Removing the one layer of plastic wrap will make them easier to get off the plastic later.)
Preheat the oven to 200°F. Place a baking sheet lined with paper towels in the oven; this is for the schnitzels as they come out of the frying pan. Set up a breading station. Put the flour in a large tray, plate or shallow bowl. Do the same for the eggs, and the breadcrumbs. Put the lard or butter in the frying pan and turn the heat to medium-high. You want to fry at a temperature of about 325°F to 350°F.
When the fat is ready, dredge a cutlet in flour and shake off the excess. Dredge it in egg, then the breadcrumbs. Do not press the breadcrumbs into the meat. Immediately put the breaded cutlet into the hot fat. Shake the pan a little to make sure the schnitzel does not stick to the bottom. The cutlet should float in the hot fat. Repeat quickly with as many cutlets as will fit in your pan.
Fry the schnitzels until they are golden brown, about 4 minutes. As the first side is cooking, spoon some hot fat over the other side. This will speed up the cooking process. Flip only once. When the schnitzels are done, put them in the oven on the baking sheet and repeat until you’re done.