The practice of wine pairing has its particular diktats that most of us have seemed to internalise. “Red meat goes with red wine”, “only serve fish and white meat with white wine”, and on and on.
While these seem like useful rules of thumb on the surface, I find them limiting. Sure, malbec and steak can be great together, and roast chicken often rocks with chardonnay. But what exists beyond that binary?
For starters, there’s chicken schnitzel and Blaufränkisch. This Austrian grape – parent of both Gamay and Zweigelt – produces rich, concentrated red wines, with bold fruit flavours. What sets it apart, however, is its distinct black pepper note: That dry, rasping spiciness makes it feel especially versatile and interesting to experiment with. Red wine with chicken? Why not?
And with chicken schnitzel, this particular bläufrankisch, United Cellars of Tekov’s punnily named Kind of Glou (made across the border from Austria in western Slovakia) really sings. Its red berry notes are present, but its black pepper finish is what makes it so distinct – I opted to season the chicken with extra freshly cracked black pepper to really draw the connection between the two. The chicken is then dredged in seasoned flour, egg mixed with mustard, and panko, before being quickly pan-fried until golden- brown on both sides and still juicy within. On the side, there’s a light spring salad to cut through the fat, featuring a good amount of parsley, sumac and the last of the season’s wild garlic, if you can still find some.
Not only is this an excellent, quick supper for this transitional time of year, it’s also living proof that avoiding didacticism around wine and food can lead to some of the most interesting and delightful pairings around.
Chicken Schnitzel with Spring Salad
Loosely adapted from NYT Cooking
For the schnitzel:
2 chicken breasts
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
125g panko breadcrumbs
200ml vegetable oil (plus more, if needed)
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, to garnish
For the salad:
½ red onion, very thinly sliced
60g lamb’s lettuce, watercress, or other preferred green
30g flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Small handful wild garlic, freshly chopped (optional)
3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Flaky sea salt, to taste
Sumac, to taste
1. First, place the chicken breasts on a cutting board, cover with parchment paper and pound until flattened, roughly ¼-inch thick (if you don’t have a meat mallet, you can use a cast-iron frying pan and/or a rolling pin instead – that combined technique worked well for me). Season well on both sides with salt and pepper.
2. Before you start cooking the chicken, prepare the onions for the side salad. Add the red onion to a small bowl and squeeze over the juice of 1 lemon; set aside for at least 10 minutes.
3. Next, set up your batter station. In one large bowl, add the flour, paprika, garlic powder and nutmeg, and whisk to combine. In a second large bowl, add the eggs and mustard, and whisk until uniform. In a third large bowl, add the panko breadcrumbs.
4. Place a large, heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium-high heat and add the vegetable oil (it should come roughly ⅛-inch up the sides of the pan; add any additional oil if needed).
5. As the oil starts to heat, prepare your first chicken breast: Add it to the bowl with the seasoned flour and dredge until evenly coated. Next, transfer the chicken breast to the egg mixture; holding by the tip, ensure it is evenly coated in the egg mixture before allowing any excess to drip off. Finally, transfer it to the bowl with the panko crumbs and flip until it is evenly coated in the crumbs, being careful to handle it as little as possible.
6. Check that the oil is hot by adding a few crumbs of panko; they should start sizzling immediately. Transfer the chicken breast to the pan and cook for roughly 3 minutes on one side until golden brown, before flipping and cooking for roughly the same on the other side.
7. It should be evenly golden brown and completely cooked through. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined tray and sprinkle over flaky sea salt. Repeat the battering and frying process with the second chicken breast.
8. Right before serving, assemble the salad: In a large bowl, add the lettuce, parsley, wild garlic (if using) and the red onion slices, as well as the lemon juice they’ve been sitting in. Toss with the olive oil and flaky sea salt to taste; squeeze over the juice of the second lemon and garnish generously with sumac.
9. To serve, transfer the schnitzel to two plates and divide the salad between them.
Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beer hound and all-around lover of tasty things. You can follow her at @clairembullen. For more recipes like this, sign up to our Natural Wine Killers wine subscription - you'll receive Claire's recipe and food pairings plus expert tasting notes for three amazing wines like this one every month.