When I first arrived in Toronto at the tender age of 20, I had a crap, overpriced apartment, a crap retail job and, shockingly, not a crap ton of money. Yes, I was living that penniless student cliche in the worst way and that meant living off of boxes of knock-off cereal (generic Fruit Os forever!) and sodium-laced noodles. But once in a blue moon, usually on a Friday, I would treat my broke ass to a schnitzel sandwich and a beer at The Red Room. Today’s Pork Schnitzel Sandwiches with Granny Smith Slaw are a homage to the sandwich.
If you’re a University of Toronto alum, I bet you remember The Red Room, albeit hazily. But for those of you who missed the UofT experience, allow me to enlighten you. The Red Room was not what you would call a high-brow establishment. It had a comically long menu, a dark, shabbily furnished interior, and a remarkably unenthused waitstaff. And, omigosh, was it cheap! I don’t say this to disparage the joint, I loved it. A lot of nights started at The Red Room and a lot of nights ended there. I’m sure wherever you went to school had its own version of The Red Room. The place is definitely an archetype.
But you’re probably thinking that in spite of the lackluster surroundings, the schnitzel sandwich must’ve been pretty tasty. I mean, I obviously think it’s worth the homage. So, was it good? It was a solid meh, but I didn’t know any better. Was it filling? Oh, my gawd! Yes! Was it cheap? Hell to the yes! Basically, it fulfilled all the basic requirements of a quality student meal. It was even served with tomato slices – they were just giving vitamins away. And because I ate it as a treat, I think about the schnitzel sandwich often and with no small amount of nostalgia. So, no, it wasn’t mind-blowingly tasty, it wasn’t even carefully produced. But loving food is kind of like loving people, sometimes the object of your affection defies all logic.
Like the croquettes from last week, the schnitzel is a cross-cultural phenomenon. It seems that at some point in every country and culture’s history it occurred to them that flattening a piece of meat, encasing it in breadcrumbs and frying it was a solid idea. Essentially, everyone has a version of schnitzel whether it be tonkatsu, milanesa or escalope. And this should come as a surprise to no one because Schnitzel is delicious. And these Pork Schnitzel Sandwiches with Granny Smith Slaw are delicious because they contain schnitzel. It makes all kinds of sense.
Now, I am in no way interested in who came up with the concept of paper-thin fried meat first. Mostly because I don’t think it really matters and also because food history is hard. A lot of our culinary history is not particularly well-documented. Like most things intended for quick consumption, food largely escaped the notice of literal generations of historians. It was an everyday thing and everyday things are not remarkable enough to warrant a lot of attention… unless of course, it was some whacked-out meal for a monarch.
The most popular form of schnitzel is the wiener schnitzel. Wiener schnitzel is the national dish of Austria and the most popular dish to come out of Viennese cuisine. In fact, the term “wiener schnitzel” is a protected geographical indication. So, in order for a schnitzel to be called a “wiener schnitzel,” it must be made with veal. Obviously, I didn’t use veal, so I have no business calling my schnitzel “wiener schnitzel”. So, what the hell kind of schnitzel is it? Well, this pork schnitzel is more reminiscent of a Münchner Schnitzel (Munich Schnitzel) because I opted to coat the meat with mustard and horseradish before breading it. The only difference is Munich Schnitzel is typically made with veal as well, but pork schnitzel is a common variation in many countries, so I am by no means in uncharted territory here.
Now, it’s hard to imagine a sandwich with no vegetable matter. The Red Room had their tomato slices and limp iceberg lettuce, but I wanted more for my Pork Schnitzel Sandwiches. I feel it’s overkill to once again mention my never-ending love and adoration for salty-sweet, so let’s skip it and talk about this Granny Smith Slaw.
This slaw owes its origin story to two different sources. A bagged salad I eat at least once a week when I just can’t even and German potato salad. The bagged salad I’m embarrassed to say I buy comes with a creamy poppy seed dressing that I’m sure undoes all the virtue that comes with eating a salad. While German potato salad features a vinegar-based non-creamy dressing that would make the people of New England collectively scoff. The dressings couldn’t be more different and yet I managed to marry the two and create a vinegary, creamy poppyseed dressing you should totally work into your regular rotation.
So that’s the deal with these Pork Schnitzel Sandwiches with Granny Smith Slaw. Crunchy, meaty and salty-sweet, these sandwiches deliver everything you could want from a sammich and more.
Pork Schnitzel Sandwiches with Granny Smith Slaw
- 1 granny smith apple julienne
- 2 Persian cucumbers halved, seeded and sliced
- 1/2 red onion sliced thin
- 1/2 cup fresh pea shoots
- 2 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon demerara sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 tablespoon poppy seeds
- 4 boneless pork loin chops
- 1/4 cup whole grain Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish heaping
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 2 eggs beaten
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
- 4 6- inch sub rolls
- 8 leaves red lettuce washed and dried
- Place the apple, cucumber, red onion and pea shoots in a large bowl. Set aside.
- Pour the vinegar into a small bowl. Add the sugar and salt and stir until nearly dissolved. Add the sour cream, garlic and poppy seeds and stir until smooth. Pour the dressing over the apple mixture and toss to coat. Cover the bowl and transfer to the fridge to chill and marinate for 30 minutes to an hour.
- While the slaw is chilling, place a pork chop on a piece of wax paper. Place another piece of wax paper over top. Using a rolling pin or a kitchen mallet, pound the pork chop until very thin, roughly 1/8 of an inch thick. Transfer the pork chop to a plate and set aside. Repeat with remaining chops.
- In a small bowl, combine the mustard and horseradish. Spread the mixture onto both sides of each of the pork chops, creating a thin, even layer.
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk to combine the salt and the breadcrumbs. Transfer the mixture to a large plate and spread to create an even layer. Do the same with the flour and whisk the eggs in a bowl large enough to accommodate the pork chops.
- Roll each pork chop in the flour, then in the eggs and finally in the breadcrumb mixture. Transfer the breaded pork chops to a plate and set aside.
- In a large skillet heat the sunflower oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the pork chops to the pan, two at a time, and fry until golden brown and crispy. About 2-3 minutes a side. Transfer the finished schnitzel to a plate lined with paper towel to drain.
- Split the sandwich rolls in half and line the bottom bun with red lettuce leaves. Place a piece of schnitzel on top of the lettuce and top the schnitzel with a generous spoonful of the slaw.
- Serve immediately with a pint of beer.