Marsha and I went on a quest for Wiener Schnitzel, a dish that we fell hard for in Salzburg, Austria on our honeymoon fifty years ago.  No restaurant in Connecticut seems to offer this staple of Austrian cuisine, so we vowed to make it at home.  Our journey of discovery led us to prowl cookbooks, web sites, and YouTube videos. The result – with the help of local suppliers – success!

Wiener Schnitzel, the famous national dish of Austria, is served across that nation in restaurants, fancy or plain.  The plate-sized, thinly-pounded, lightly-breaded cutlet is cooked in a bath of hot oil, served with a slice of lemon, and eaten right away while the crust is still puffy and crisp. 

True Wiener Schnitzel is made with veal – a thin, lean cutlet pounded out to an even thickness. Beware the recipe that might use pork instead or even chicken. The Austrians would be aghast. 

A full-service butcher shop is the place to start.  

Tempting, thick-cut steaks filled the meat case at the Darien Butcher Shop, but that wasn’t what I was looking for. Manager Alexander Aflalo pulled a veal top round out of the cooler and expertly sliced off two cutlets for our schnitzel.  He gladly pounded them to an even and tender thinness with a smooth-sided “schnitzel klopfer.”

After enjoyable hours reading recipes and studying online videos, Marsha and I were eager to try our hand.  With just a few ingredients  – flour, egg, bread crumbs and the cutlet – it comes down to technique to get the authentic result – a puffy, sturdy crust that bubbles up and separates from the meat.  A video from the restaurant Meissl & Schadn in Vienna was very helpful.

The trick, I learned, was a deep bath of oil heated to 350 degrees. I poured a quart of canola oil into a cast iron pan and kept an eye on the temperature with a digital thermometer. 

The lightly-breaded cutlet is slipped into the oil without touching the bottom of the pan. After an astonishingly short time, the cutlet is gently turned. Magically, the crust puffs.

To round out the menu I visited the Taste Of Europe, a source for hard-to-find ingredients in Norwalk, to pick up a bag of German spätzle noodles and a jar of red cabbage. (Products from the small country of Austria are seldom seen.)

Our dessert, another home-cooking adventure, was Salzburger Nockerl. A soufflé originating in the city where Mozart was born, it often follows schnitzel. Again, a few simple ingredients combined with practiced technique create something unique.

As we learned in a video from Salzburg’s famous Hotel Goldener Hirsch, egg whites are beaten into a stiff meringue, combined with egg yolks, sugar and a little flour. The mixture is mounded into three peaks, mimicking the three mountains surrounding the city.   Baked like a soufflé to golden brown, the signature dessert is presented with ceremony and served with fruit sauce. 

When not eating schnitzel and nockerl in Salzburg, we learned that the locals are often found in a Konditorei – a coffee and pastry stop essential to their wellbeing. Morning coffee and pastry, afternoon coffee and a sweet, noontime for a light lunch, the Konditorei are busy all day long. My kind of place.

In New Canaan, the Patisserie Salzburg has a showcase of elaborate confections, European style cookies, and beautifully decorated cakes along with a light breakfast and lunch menu, just like the Konditorei we enjoyed. 

Opera tort, two layers of cake protected by thin layers of chocolate from the hazelnut center, all wrapped in whipped cream, was delicious.  Square, generously-sized Linzer Tarts filled with raspberry jam were crisp and nutty.  A mille feuille with layers of pastry cream and butter cream separated by puff pastry and capped with chocolate streaked fondant was impossibly rich.  All were typical of what we savored all those years ago. 

Enjoyed with a bottle of Berger Grüner Veltliner, the native wine of Austria, and Gerolsteiner sparkling mineral water, the dinner was a hit.  Ahh, the wonderful memories that delicious food can summon. 

Frank Whitman can be reached at