CZECH BEER : MONIKA FORMANOVA’S SECRET INGREDIENT
CZECH REPUBLIC: Chicken Schnitzel
Monika Formanova misses two things about the Czech Republic: “My family and the beer. Most North American beer is made from wheat; there, the beer is made from hops.”
Formanova’s son David makes special trips to Ontario to load up on Kozel, a Czech beer. “We treat it like gold,” Formanova said. She and her Canadian-born partner Mitchell enjoy drinking the beer. It’s also the secret ingredient in Formanova’s Chicken Schnitzel.
Formanova, who is 56 and lives in Cote-St-Luc, fled the Czech Republic’s Communist regime in 1986. She and her then husband spent six months in an Austrian refugee camp before immigrating to Canada. When they arrived, the couple had to learn both English and French. Once she was fluent in both languages, Formanova worked at a Cote-des-Neiges coffee shop, before returning to school to train as a dental assistant. These days, she works as a massage therapist, Reiki master and hypnosis practitioner.
Formanova also loves to cook. “When I make a good meal, I always make a lot so I can bring it to my kids and to Mitch’s parents,” she said.
Formanova only got interested in cooking after coming to Canada. “At the beginning, I made mostly Czech food because it was inexpensive. Czech recipes use a lot of potatoes and dumplings,” she explained. Vegetables – aside from potatoes – are not a big part of Czech cuisine. “It’s a lot of carbohydrates with meat,” said Formanova. Over the years, Formanova has developed a taste for vegetables. She often serves them grilled, and has a soft spot for brussel sprouts.
In Formanova’s childhood home, chicken schnitzel was a special treat – served once a month, always on a Sunday. “Sunday dinners were the most festive,” she recalled. Formanova tries to keep that tradition going, inviting her own and Mitch’s kids, and Mitch’s parents to Sunday night dinners whenever possible.
David and his sister Nicole both make a mean schnitzel. “Fifty per-cent of what they cook is Czech. Besides schnitzel, they make beef goulash and stuffed peppers,” said Formanova.
While chicken schnitzel is popular in the Czech Republic, nearby countries have their own takes on the recipe. “In Germany, they use veal; in Italy, it’s made with pork,” Formanova explained.
For her schnitzel, Formanova uses chicken breasts, which she pounds with a mallet. “It’s good for stress relief,” Formanova joked. Cooking satisfies Formanova in all sorts of ways. “Food preparation is stress relief. I enjoy making it and I anticipate how nice it will be when we are eating together.”
4-6 chicken breasts, pounded to 1/8 inch thickness
1 c flour
2 eggs, beaten
2 c breadcrumbs
½ c beer (or milk)
1 c canola oil
salt and pepper
Season chicken with salt and pepper. Put the flour on a plate. In a bowl, mix the eggs, beer (or milk) and a pinch of salt. Put the breadcrumbs on another plate.
Dredge one piece of chicken at a time in the flour, shaking off the excess. Dip each piece of chicken in the egg mixture, then coat with breadcrumbs.
Heat the oil in a large skillet at medium-high heat. Cook until golden brown, about three to four minutes on each side. Drain on paper towel.
Serve with mashed potatoes or potato salad. Serves four to six.
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The Secret is in the Sauce! is sponsored by Canadian Heritage’s Official Languages Program.