Thursday, November 17, 2016

Chicken Schnitzel with Riesling

I've shared stories about my mom many times. Funny stories about board games gone wrong, wonderful memories of some of my favorite foods she made. My mother was a one of a kind. Just an itty bitty woman with a personality larger than life, she had a mouth that would shame a sailor. I always say it's because she learned to speak English on an army base. True story.

My mother is the one thing that connects me so closely to Europe. Born and raised in Wiesbaden my mother was a late in life baby born to older parents. Her brother and sister were grown and married with kids of their own by the time Mom came along. Her life was very simple. Her father was a tailor, her mother a homemaker, living in a small apartment when World War II erupted and changed Germany forever. Her father served in the German military when she was a little girl and was taken as a prisoner of war in Russia. 

My grandfather, Karl Betz
Mom told stories about the air raids conducted by the Allies, sleeping with your shoes and clothes on in case the alarm sounded and you had to flee to a bomb shelter. Mom had to flee several times as Wiesbaden came under attack. Nearly a quarter of the city was destroyed and nearly 2000 people killed. During and after the war food was pretty scarce around Mom's house. Mom said after Wiesbaden was liberated by the Allies the American GIs brought them big bags of food. Dehydrated vegetables mostly, and her family received a huge bag of dehydrated sweet potatoes and another of corn. I can honestly say I never saw my mother eat sweet potatoes ever, and while she always made corn for the rest of the Iowa corn-loving family, she did not eat it herself.

L to R- Mom, her brother Hienz, cousin Gisele,
my Oma Elsa and Opa Karl Betz
Fast forward to the late 1950s, when a skinny young kid from Minnesota enlisted in the U.S. Army and shipped out to Germany. Times were still tough in Germany and my mother took cleaning jobs from the "rich Americans" on the base and by some stroke of luck, met that skinny Minnesota boy, and the rest is history. They married, they moved to Minnesota, she became a U.S. Citizen and life fell into place. Mom's family still lived in Germany and with visits from my Oma to the United States and one fabulous summer spent traveling eleven different countries in Europe, my love for Europe was born. I learned to enjoy foods many adults would not eat, and while many kids were dining on hot dogs and mac and cheese, my sister and I were eating steak tartare, sauerbraten, trout cooked within minutes of being in the water in Italy, bread still warm from the boulangerie, and pasta on a shady terrace in the shadows of the Alps. And yes, we often had that small glass of wine.

Mom and Dad
Maybe it's my German heritage, or maybe it's just my taste buds, but as I grew to love wines I found myself really gravitating towards German Rieslings more than any other white wine. As a kid, I was able to try lots of different wines as is common in European families. By the time most of my friends were just starting to chug from beer bongs, I already had a pretty well experienced wine palate. The older I became, the more experience with wines I enjoyed, the one thing that never changed was my love of Riesling. As a wine tasting guide, Riesling class was one of my favorite classes to have. This wine is amazing and varied and so influenced by its terroir. German Rieslings are less sweet than Oregon and Washington State wines, not as acidic as versions from the Southern Hemisphere. Wines from the New York Finger Lakes Region are completely different still. Which brings me to this recipe. Choose a German or other European Riesling to make this easy take on chicken schnitzel. It won't overpower the dish with sweetness and it won't be too acidic for the lemon notes.

My Dad

Chicken Schnitzel with Riesling Sauce

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast
salt and pepper
all purpose flour
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup butter
1 cup Riesling
one lemon
1 cup heavy cream
snipped fresh chives or thyme for garnish

Place the chicken breasts between sheets of waxed paper and gently pound out to even thickness. Season with salt and pepper; dredge in flour and set aside. Cut the lemon in half crosswise. Juice one half and thinly slice the other half.

Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the chicken to the skillet and cook, turning once, until browned on both sides and cooked through. Remove to a plate and keep warm.

Add the mushrooms to the skillet. Cook and stir for several minutes until tender and starting to brown. Add the garlic for the last one to two minutes. Don't let the garlic get brown.

Add the lemon juice and wine to the skillet. Raise the heat and let mixture reduce slightly. Add the heavy cream and heat to bubbling. Add the chicken breasts and lemon slices to the sauce.

California Rieslings are very similar to German.
Delicious served over fluffy mashed potatoes or freshly made spaetzle, sprinkled with snipped chives or fresh thyme, with fresh green beans or asparagus on the side. This is very much like something my mother would have made. 

Speaking of spaetzle, I have discovered, just by chance, that Aldi carries a nice selection of dried spaetzle. I'm surprised every time I go in there- they have so many European grocery items, organic products and healthy options. Check it out if you're lucky enough to have an Aldi store nearby.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 55: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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