36 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY June 27-July 3, 2024 www.montereycountynow.com Although the dish is popular at La Tortuga in Seaside, owner Elijah Vasquez struggles to explain it. “The process,” he says before stalling with a frustrated sigh. But Vasquez is not willing to give up, especially when the answer is handy. “Let me go ask my mom.” Milanesa is surprisingly simple for a country prone to assembling sauces with 30 ingredients. It’s just meat pounded flat, a little salt and pepper followed by a dredge, dip and dredge— flour, beaten eggs, breadcrumbs; mom insists the order is important. One might easily confuse milanesa with the German staple known as schnitzel. Again it’s meat pounded until thin, coated in batter and fried until a satisfyingly crisp shell develops. And, again, steps must be followed. “You have to have good meat and tenderize it,” explains Claudia Moritz, chef and owner of Stammtisch German Restaurant in Seaside. Kneading the batter into the pork or chicken, as well as pan-frying, is critical to getting the crust just right, she adds. “I do not have a deep fryer in my kitchen.” Similar presentations can be found across the world—tonkatsu in Japan, Italian chicken parmigiano, the Texas staple chicken fried steak and so on. Few other dishes are as essential to global cuisine than meat (or even eggplant) that has been roughed up with a mallet, battered and fried. Moritz believes its ubiquity is due to the versatility allowed by the basic recipe. The dish welcomes different proteins, sauces and techniques. Jager schnitzel comes with a rich brown sauce dotted with mushrooms. Veal milanese in Italy is traditionally bone-in meat, with grated cheese mixed into the breadcrumbs. The hubcap of fried pork sandwich dubbed “tenderloin” across Iowa, Illinois and Indiana is kept simple, often with just a few pickles for garnish. “I created my own,” Moritz adds. “Claudia’s hausschnitzel”—a pork cutlet topped with mushrooms, onions and melted cheese—“is very popular.” Yet there are rules, sometimes strictly observed. The go-to chicken fried steak at The Grill at Point Pinos in Pacific Grove is worthy of the Lone Star State in its heft, crackle and delicate beef. But the sausage gravy, while nice, is an affront to Texans who insist on simple peppered cream gravy. In Germany, wiener schnitzel is subject to law. According to culinary authorities, the dish can only start with veal. No other meat is allowed. Restaurants in the U.S. tend to disregard this rule. Even Moritz substitutes pork, yet she still adheres to the letter of German law, which grants the right to use another meat if the chef specifies “wiener schnitzel art”—prepared in the Viennese style—on the menu. “All these years I never Americanized,” the Stammtisch chef says. There are local customs, as well. While working in Austria, Moritz placed an order and asked for gravy. The waiter refused, so she requested it on the side. Every time the waiter passed her table, he would give a sideeye glance and snort in disgust. Historians agree that preparations similar to schnitzel and chicken fried steak have existed since ancient times. Although print references to the latter are much more recent–a 1923 Los Angeles Times article complained that the impressive force of the human jaw was not enough to crack “some of the ‘chicken fried’ steak one gets at the rapid-fire lunch counter”—a recipe labeled “A Fricando of Beef” can be found in the 1824 edition of The Virginia Housewife. Chicken fried steak, country fried steak and pork tenderloin were likely inspired by German immigrants. It is believed that milanesa was introduced first to Argentina by Italian immigrants. It spread from there and became so entrenched that Vasquez cites milanesa as a recipe “from old Mexico.” Yet there is uncertainty as to whether the German/Austrian or Italian presentation came first. One tale dates to the Habsburg dynasty and has an Austrian field marshal sampling milanese and bringing the recipe to Vienna in 1857. However, there are indications that wiener schnitzel was already common in the early 1800s. So which is it? Moritz just laughs and shakes her head diplomatically. It’s all good. First course The hausschnitzel at Stammtisch in Seaside is a creation of Chef Claudia Moritz, who says the fried meat dish is versatile. Greet Meat…Learn how to make meat from the best of the best. Chef Todd Fisher of The Meatery is putting on a series of meat cooking classes, the first of which is on Monday, July 1. Participants will learn the ins and outs, literally, of how to prepare chicken in a variety of ways. $135 per person per session. 1534 Fremont Blvd., Seaside. 656-8810, themeateryseaside.com. Beachy Keen…The folks at 831 Catering & Events now have a place to call home. Their breakfast and lunch spot, 831 Beach Kitchen, is open in the old Aloha Coffee location, serving a selection of breakfast sandwiches (and the obligatory burrito) as well as lunch items and baked goods. The churro donut is already a favorite. 1098 Del Monte Ave., Monterey. 869-8676, 831catering.com. Cream Crop…There is already plenty of wine in Carmel Valley, but soon there will be more of wine’s beloved counterpart: cheese. Carmel Valley Creamery is slated to open mid-July and will have homemade artisanal cheeses made with goat, sheep and regular cow milk, as well as a selection of locally loved goods like Revival Ice Cream and Ad Astra bread. 1 Esquiline Road, Carmel Valley. carmelvalleycreameryco. com. Half And Half…You can get half-priced wine half the days of the week (almost), thanks to Coastal Roots Hospitality. Enjoy bottles of wine for half off at Rio Grill on Mondays, Montrio on Tuesdays, and Tarpy’s Roadhouse on Wednesdays. Rio Grill at 101 Crossroads Blvd., Carmel, 625-5436, riogrill.com. Montrio at 414 Calle Principal, Monterey, 648-8880, montrio.com. Tarpy’s at 2999 Highway 68, Monterey, 647-1444, tarpys.com. In The Swing…Bayonet & Black Horse is hosting a live music concert series on Wednesdays from 4:307:30pm. Enjoy live music, beer and wines for $5, and delicious bites on the course. 1 McClure Way, Seaside. 8997271, bayonetblackhorse.com. beach side…The City of Pacific Grove has awarded a new lease for a small, shuttered beachside restaurant. Sarah Orr, behind the uspcale Stokes Adobe in downtown Monterey, will take over the Snack Shack at Lovers Point (formerly the Grill at Lovers Point). “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Orr says. “We’re really excited about it.” By Jacqueline Weixel morsels eatanddrink@montereycountynow.com “All these years I’ve never Americanized.” Eat + DrinK Daniel Dreifuss Batter Up There are many ways—and a few stiff rules—to dredge and fry a thin slice of meat. By Dave Faries