I love origin stories….especially when German culture mixes with American, and you get a whole new legend! So the question came up, “Is Wienerschnitzel just German Chicken Fried Steak“? Well, seems like they are quite similar, but what is the story behind it? And then… I came across this tale… the Legend of the Texas Wienerschnitzel Incident.
Now, I KNOW… Wienerschnitzel is more Austrian than German… and I KNOW that true Wienerschnitzel is made with veal and not steak… But sometimes, you make do with what you have (and I know that Germans love their Wienerschnitzel!)
So…..Insert your tongue into your cheek… and enjoy a legend that has cowboys, Germans guns and of course, Wienerschnitzel.
Is Wienerschnitzel German Chicken Fried Steak?
Read the legend of the Texas Wienerschnitzel Incident, and decide for yourself.
The “Texas Wienerschnitzel Incident” played a key role in the creation of chicken fried steak. The first recipe ingredients to make this southern treat called for a big Civil War, many, many German immigrant recruits and, most likely, a scatter-gun loaded with buckshot.
Few dispute that chicken fried steak originated in Texas in the last half of the 19th century. The unanswered question is how this comfort food developed and why. By piecing together broad swaths of history, studying a few hints and filling in the minor blanks, the puzzle of how chicken fried steak came into existence can be solved. The first hint for study is the consensus of southern chefs. Most chefs agree that Texas Chicken Fried Steak bears a strong resemblance to German Wienerschnitzel. It raises this question: How did a first cousin of German Wienerschnitzel find its way into Texas?
Evidence points toward the American Civil War and the subsequent recruitment of immigrants as the progenitors of chicken fried steak.
Both the southern and northern armies enlisted German immigrants into their ranks during the war. With the surrender of Lee’s Army at Appomattox in April, 1865, the Yankee and the Rebel commanders mustered their troops out of service.
As is true with any army after a war, the men looked forward to going home. After four years of eating a crude military diet of hardtack and dried beef, the taste and smell of sweet home-cooking dominated the thoughts of Civil War veterans.
During this repatriation, German immigrant veterans, looking for work and food, crossed into the longhorn state. They were most likely German immigrants who fought on the Rebel side, as Yankees weren’t welcome into Texas in 1865.
After getting hired for a cattle drive, the first question the hungry and homesick Germans asked at camp was: “Vhere ist der wienerschnitzel, ya’ll?” Texans, naturally, had no idea what these new cowboys were talking about. Texas is big steak country. You want to eat? Eat steak.
The Texans threw a thick slab of beef in the camp skillet, fried it up and gave it to the German cowboys. Unknown to the Texans, the Germans were hankering for a home-cooked meal of Wienerschnitzel. The German immigrants tried a bite of the steak, found it tough and not to their liking and pushed it away. One immigrant, by the name of Frank Knackwurst (not his real name obviously… that’s been lost to history), exclaimed: “Ach du lieber, ya’ll! Ist not Wienerschnitzel.”
Thus began the “Texas Wienerschnitzel Incident.”
The cowboys, of course, found this refusal to eat camp food insulting. The lean and tall trail boss snarled. The camp cook, his hand on his Buntline six-shooter, fingered the trigger, mumbling under his breath that maybe these ungrateful Germans should dance for their dinner. The Germans, like the cowboys, carried a wide streak of stubborn.
Knackwurst, a hobby chef, studied the raw steak a moment and asked for a plate, an egg, salt and pepper and a handful of flour. Now he needed a stump.
The German cowboy took the round steak to the stump, set it down and shot it with a scatter-gun loaded with buckshot. Now he had the meat tenderized how he wanted it. Then he dipped the cutlet in the egg, dusted it with flour, fried up his Texas “Wienerschnitzel” in butter and offered his creation to the dusty trail riders. All the cowpokes loved it.
As the decades passed, Texas cooks refined this trail side dinner and moved the chicken fried steak to the west side of the plate to make way for mashed potatoes.
A tasty, creamy gravy poured over the steak and potatoes made its debut next (Rahm Schnitzel?), resulting in the unofficial state meal of Texas. Now everyone can enjoy big plates of chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, thanks to Rebel German immigrant cowboys and Texas beef ventilated with buckshot.
And if this isn’t the truth… then I don’t know what is….
(this recipe comes from Oma Gerhild at Quick German Recipes… see the Original Wienerschnitzel Recipe HERE)
German Schnitzel Recipe
4 veal cutlets, pounded lightly (use pork for Schweineschnitzel)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp salt
about ½ cup flour
3 Tbsp water
about 1 cup bread crumbs
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp peanut or vegetable oil
1 lemon, sliced
Trim fat from meat and clip edges to stop edges from curling during cooking.
Sprinkle cutlets with lemon juice and salt.
Place 3 shallow bowl on counter. In first one, put flour. In second one, mix egg and water. In third one, put breadcrumbs.
Coat schnitzel, first with flour, then egg, and then breadcrumbs.
Heat butter and oil over medium heat in skillet.
Fry cutlets until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side.
Serve immediately, garnished with lemon slices.
Chicken Fried Steak Recipe
This comes from Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Women Click HERE—> Chicken Fried Steak recipe
Best Chicken Fried Steak:
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons seasoned salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 pounds cube steak (tenderized round steak that’s been extra tenderized)
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 to 4 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Mashed potatoes, for serving
For the steak: Begin with setting up an assembly line of dishes. Mix the milk with the eggs in one; the flour mixed with the seasoned salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper, paprika and cayenne in another; and the meat in a third. Then have one clean plate at the end to receive the breaded meat.
Work with one piece of meat at a time. Sprinkle both sides with kosher salt and black pepper, then place it in the flour mixture. Turn to coat. Place the meat into the milk/egg mixture, turning to coat. Finally, place it back in the flour and turn to coat (dry mixture/wet mixture/dry mixture). Place the breaded meat on the clean plate, then repeat with the remaining meat.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the butter. Drop in a few sprinkles of flour to make sure it’s sufficiently hot. When the butter sizzles immediately, you know it’s ready. (It should not brown right away, if it does, the fire is too hot.) Cook the meat, 3 pieces at a time, until the edges start to look golden brown, about 2 minutes each side. Remove the meat to a paper towel-lined plate and keep them warm by covering lightly with another plate or a sheet of foil. Repeat until all the meat is cooked.
After all the meat is fried, pour off the grease into a heatproof bowl. Without cleaning the skillet, return it to the stove over medium-low heat. Add 1/4 cup of the grease back to the skillet and allow it to heat up.
For the gravy: When the grease is hot, sprinkle the flour evenly over the grease. Using a whisk, mix the flour with the grease, creating a golden-brown paste. Add more flour if it looks overly greasy; add a little more grease if it becomes too pasty/clumpy. Keep cooking until the roux reaches a deep golden brown color.
Pour in the milk, whisking constantly. Add the seasoned salt and black pepper to taste and cook, whisking, until the gravy is smooth and thick, 5 to 10 minutes. Be prepared to add more milk if it becomes overly thick. Be sure to taste to make sure gravy is sufficiently seasoned.
Serve the meat next to a big side of mashed potatoes. Pour gravy over the whole shebang!
Interested in more German Cowboy Tales?
This page is quite interesting…
German Pioneers arrive to become Ranchers and Cowboys
And of course, any of the stories from Karl May…
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