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A few years ago I went on a work trip to Berlin, where I had the sublime experience of eating a very good schnitzel, bright with lemon and a bitter salad, at 10 at night in a legendary biergarten. I never quite got schnitzel before this moment — all the ones I’d had prior had been too greasy, heavy, or just plain blah. But this was an airy, crunchy masterpiece of texture contrast: an enormous crispy breaded patty, big as the plate and barely a quarter-inch thick, side by side with peppery greens and spritzy sour lemon. It was absolutely divine, even paired with a non-alcoholic beer (I was heavily pregnant at the time).
I thought of this moment when I spotted veal schnitzel in my local independent grocery store’s freezer case. They have an excellent butcher counter that makes homemade sausage and other goodies, as well as these thin, breaded patties that I can pick up for a few dollars a pack. I bought some on a whim and, one night while my husband was away on a long trip, threw one in the air fryer.
I was pleased by how quickly it cooked the patty — just five or six minutes on the highest heat. I flipped it once, and it emerged golden-brown and crunchy on the edges. I tossed a bit of baby arugula with lemon juice and olive oil, and piled it high on the patty, and added a few wedges of lemon.
My first bite of the schnitzel was brilliantly crispy and light — not quite as transcendent as a Berlin biergarten’s take, but pretty dang good for a post-child-bedtime dinner for one. I cut off slices, spearing them with the feathery greens, drenched in lemon. Together the bitter salad, squeezes of lemon, and rich and crunchy meat were a perfectly heavenly dinner that felt like so much more than the sum of its parts.
I’m not ashamed to say I ate that same meal three nights in a row, and introduced my husband to it as soon as he was back. It has a little flair of fancy, but takes 10 minutes tops and is the absolute fastest dinner I know how to make.
Where to Find Schnitzel in the Grocery Store
I buy my schnitzel frozen from an independent grocery store that makes it in-house. I believe Aldi sells a frozen pork schnitzel. (I haven’t tried it; have you? Tell us how it is!) This quick dinner would work well with other thin, crispy meat patties like tonkatsu, which I can buy frozen from my local Japanese grocery. Look for other types of pounded, breaded meat patties in your own grocery store freezer, or check to see if your grocery meat counter makes schnitzel themselves.
How to Make Schnitzel at Home
Do you have a favorite fast air fryer dinner? Tell us about it in the comments!