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It’s impossible to be sad while eating schnitzel

#tweetyourshabbat is a global movement founded by Carly Pildis, celebrating the struggle and joy of getting Shabbat on the table every week. This is a place for real dinners and real conversations about Jewish life. Join us at Forward in sharing what you’ll be eating and how your feeling this week at #TweetYourShabbat

Chicken Schnitzel and Israeli Salad

Chicken Schnitzel and Israeli Salad Image by Carly Pildis

This week I took my three-year-old daughter on a walk. It was right before bedtime and she should have been in pajamas already, but there was something I wanted her to see.

There is a new food bank in our neighborhood, open every Tuesday night. Right in front of our corner store where she buys apples and lollipops, there is a line of people who need food and a place to donate. I let her dip my debit card into the donation slot and we talked about tzedakah, charity.

We talked for the first time about the fact that some kids don’t have enough to eat and some parents have lost their jobs. I wanted her to begin to understand that we are a very lucky family, even if it may not feel like it this week. This Shabbat is going to be a difficult one for my family. It’s the last Shabbat we will be spending all together at home for a little while.

The pandemic has continued to put families at risk and forced us all to make difficult decisions. My family has been lucky. There are children who will be going hungry this fall. There are families that are being forced into desperate circumstances. 23 million families face eviction by September 30th. We have kept our jobs, our health, and have a family that is excited to welcome us.

With summer ending, we are facing the same challenges you are facing, namely what to do about childcare and how to keep our family safe from the pandemic while acknowledging that we must continue working. My daughter and I are moving in with my parents and my husband is staying at home. I can work remotely and my husband cannot. I have trudged along since March without childcare but it simply isn’t possible any longer. I am hoping it will just be three weeks, but as my mom always says, there is no long term planning in a pandemic.

Shabbat is supposed to stay joyous, separate and apart from the pain of the week, but I can’t help but feel a little sad this week. My husband and I have never been separated for a significant amount of time before, and my daughter has never been without both of us. The idea of sitting down to Shabbat without him feels anathema to me. I am going to miss him in the small moments of life, plopping down on the couch to watch TV, sipping coffee while our daughter plays, debating bagels or donuts for a weekend breakfast.

All week, I have been looking for the right recipe to cheer us. Something comforting and rich, but light enough for a hot August night. Something that would make my husband feel extra love on the plate. Something that freezes well and makes good leftovers so my husband can have a full freezer after a long day at work, coming home to an empty house. I propose all manner of elaborate dinners, but my husband prefers something simple, something homey and well-loved, like an old cookbook.

He has the perfect suggestion: Israeli schnitzel.

Chicken is the ultimate Jewish comfort food, and my husband fell in love with Israeli-style chicken schnitzel when we traveled across Israel a few summers ago.

My schnitzel is a little untraditional. There is no pounding out of breasts and no deep frying, but you’ll love how quick, easy, and mess-free it is. I prefer it oven-fried with crispy panko topping, avoiding the mess and high-fat content of deep-frying.

I also love that I don’t need to watch it as closely, giving me time to prepare the rest of the dinner while it bakes. There is no standing over the stove frying batch after batch, it all cooks at once so you are free to prepare sides or desserts.

My recipe is made with chicken thighs instead of the traditional breasts, marrying golden brown crispy crunchy coating with rich dark meat and pairing perfectly with bright Israeli salad celebrating summer produce. And don’t forget the lemon.

It is impossible to be sad while eating schnitzel and Israeli salad. It’s such a happy and homey little dish. When my husband comes home at night, the schnitzel will be waiting for him in the freezer to remind him he isn’t really alone.

We may not be at our house with him, but we are still in this together.

How was your week? How are you spending Shabbat? Let us know at #tweetyourshabbat! Everyone is welcome at this table! Come hungry

Easy Oven Fried Schnitzel

This ideal for a busy family. It comes together quickly, and you can get together sides while it’s baking instead of standing over a hot stove. You do not need a mallet. I like Israeli salad, french fries, hummus and pita with my schnitzel. Special thanks to Anshel Pfeffer for talking me out of sesame seeds and onion powder, and to Alex Zeldin for lovingly testing this recipe in his own kitchen. He prefers you eat it with mashed potatoes.

2 pounds of boneless skinless chicken thigh
2 egg
4 tablespoons good quality mayonnaise ( I love Duke’s)
1 teaspoon salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
5 cups of panko
½ cup of Olive oil
2 teaspoon of paprika
2 teaspoon of garlic salt

Preheat oven 425 degrees

Dry room temperature chicken with paper towels and lightly season. Whisk egg, salt, pepper, mayonnaise. With tongs, coat chicken in mixture and marinate.

Pour olive oil in a large pan, bring to temperature, a tested panko crumb should immediately begin to sizzle. Season panko with paprika and garlic salt. Add seasoned panko to heated oil, stirring constantly until a light golden brown.

When the bread crumbs are toasted and golden, take a bite and adjust seasonings if needed. The panko should be delicious on its own, enough that you steal an extra bite.

Cover a baking sheet in a thin sheen of oil., if you have a wire rack this would be a good time to use it. Using the tongs, coat the chicken thighs in bread crumbs, pressing the chicken lightly with the back of your tongs to adhere to the chicken. Chicken should be completely coated in crumbs.

Place on the baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes until they are a deep golden brown and very crunchy. Cut the largest thigh in half to test and then decide you must eat it standing to eat half of it just to ensure it is delicious. It will be, I promise. Serve with lemon wedges.

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