June is usually a weird month in Vancouver weather-wise. One day it’s so warm out you’re sitting on top of the world; the next, you need to dig out your flannel pyjamas.
Seems like a good time for schnitzel. It’s classic German comfort food, but not necessarily winter food.
Gus Stieffenhofer-Brandson—who worked his way up from a dishwasher in a Winnipeg restaurant to sous chef at one of the world’s best restaurants, and who now heads the kitchen at Published on Main—has shared his recipe with us.
A bit more about Stieffenhofer-Brandson: growing up, he spent a lot of time on his grandparents’ Manitoba farm, where they grew apples, berries, potatoes, dozens of types of tomato, every herb you can imagine, and more. He remembers his grandparents going out before the sun came up in the summertime for their white asparagus, sometimes at 4 in the morning, “mounding it up”. (That’s how you make asparagus white: you cover it with dirt and mulch so that it never sees the sun. It never gets a chance to turn green because no photosynthesis takes place.)
He especially loved the creations that resulted from all those farm-fresh ingredients, foods like apfelkuken (apple cake); stuffed peppers, tomato sauce, jams...
After high school, Stieffenhofer-Brandson enrolled in the culinary-arts program at Winnipeg’s Red River College. His practical experience included a stint at a restaurant that at the time was run by the youngest Michelin chef in Germany. Upon returning home, he loaded up his ’91 Honda Civic with $900 in the bank and drove to B.C.
That was in 2009. Within two weeks, he had secured a job at legendary Burnaby restaurant the Pear Tree. (If the Michelin system existed in Canada, this spot would certainly star.) Stieffenhofer-Brandson ended up working there for nearly five years, learning from chef-owner Scott Jaeger, before gaining experience at Hawksworth Restaurant and at Perch at UBC.
Next stop: Noma. The Copenhagen restaurant is considered tops in the entire world.
What struck him upon returning to Vancouver is that practically everything that Noma uses on its menu, and is critically acclaimed for, grows right here. Things like woodruff, a flowering plant that loves shade; sea asparagus; wood sorrel, a lemony weed; and beach coriander.
You’ll find all sorts of share plates on the menu at Published—which is reopening for dine-in service on Friday (June 5).
There are larger dishes there, too, including pork schnitzel.
“This is one of my all-time faves,” Stieffenhofer-Brandson tells the Straight. “When I was doing a practicum in Germany in 2008, it was a pretty heavy work week for me most weeks. I would thankfully have Sundays off, and I would meet up with my cousins to go eat at the Goldener Adler in Mainz-Gonsenheim.
“I would always get a big stein of Hefeweizen, and a Jaegerschnitzel,” he says. “I was so impressed that regardless of how busy they got, they always pounded out the cutlets and breaded them to order. The schnitzel would come out, pretty much the size of the dinner plate, with a deep, rich demi glace studded with wild mushrooms, acidic tomatoes, and fresh parsley. Definitely would be a course in my death-row meal.”
Here’s how to make the dish at home.
By Gus Stieffenhofer-Brandson, executive chef, Published on Main
Makes four large schnitzels.
You can either buy Knorr chasseur or demi-glace powder, or make this sauce from scratch.
2 L chicken stock
1 white onion, sliced
1 rib celery, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
1 clove garlic
1 Tbsp tomato paste
5 sprigs thyme
3 bay leaf
1 Tbsp peppercorn
1 cup red wine
½ cup butter
¾ cup flour
1 lb button mushrooms
1 cup diced tomato
1 cup parsley, minced
1 Tbsp green peppercorn (tinned)
10 good cracks of black pepper
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
Roast off the vegetables listed in the first section with a bit of oil. Don't overcrowd the pan; you're looking for caramelization here. Once it starts smelling delicious, add the tomato paste, and cook that out some. Once roasted and aromatic, add the red wine and cook until nearly dry. Add stock, bay, thyme, and peppercorns and bring up to a simmer.
Melt butter in a pan, and add flour. This is the roux. For this sauce, we want a brown roux, so we will carefully cook the roux until it begins to smell rich and nutty, and the colour should be a rich brown.
Slowly ladle a bit of stock into the roux at a time, being careful to not burn ourselves, as it may get a little crazy, spitting burning hot-lava roux at you.
Once you’ve added maybe 500 mL of the stock to the roux and it’s reasonably flow-y, we can add that roux back to the pot of stock, and let that simmer.
Taste taste taste. We’re looking for the stock to start becoming a sauce, rich and deep in flavour from the roasted vegetables and beginning to have more body from the roux.
In a separate pan, start roasting the onion (from the second grouping of ingredients) until caramelized, then the mushrooms. Strain the now thickened sauce into the pan with the mushrooms, and add the remaining ingredients.
Now is a matter of balancing the flavour. Maybe a pinch of salt, maybe a few extra cracks of pepper. Maybe a tablespoon of red-wine vinegar for a bit more acidity.
4 pork cutlets (about 7 oz each)
Seasoned flour (I like to add 1 Tbsp salt, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp mustard powder, 1 tsp garlic powder, and 1 tsp white pepper to my flour)
Egg wash (1 egg, 1 cup milk)
Breadcrumbs (panko, or leftover dry bread ends ground to crumb)
Between plastic wrap or a clean grocery bag place the pork cutlets, one at a time to pound them out. I have a handy little meat mallet, but a rolling pin or really any blunt heavy object will work. I've used an empty wine bottle before to no ill effect.
Using even force, pound the cutlet out until it's quite thin (1/4 inch or thinner), and at least doubled in surface area. Be careful to not break the flesh; you still want it to be in one piece!
Repeat with remaining cutlets.
Season with salt and pepper on both sides.
Dredge in seasoned flour, shaking off excess.
Dip in egg wash until completely coated, and then lay in bread crumbs and flip, pressing the crumbs into the cutlet so it's evenly and well covered.
Repeat with remaining cutlets.
To cook the schnitzel, you can easily cook in a deep fat fryer or in a pan, effectively shallow frying it.
To shallow fry, heat a frying pan over medium heat, and fill with approximately ½ inch of cooking oil, canola or sunflower. Carefully lower the schnitzel in and cook, shaking often, until the bottom side is golden brown (approximately 3 to 4 minutes). Carefully turn over, and continue cooking until both sides are golden brown. You can either plate at this point or reserve on a baking rack on a cookie sheet in a low oven (250F or so).
Repeat with remaining schnitzels.
Pour brown sauce on top and enjoy immediately!