My wife and I like to have crumbed fish and schnitzel from time to time. I know it makes me sound like a tightwad, (which I am) but it irks me to have to use a whole egg in the crumbing process when I might only have two small fillets of fish to crumb. Is there a way to make the crumbs stick to the fish without using an egg?
- Cheers, Harry
It is a tricky one this, the amount of egg used to crumb a few portions of something. Unfortunately, there's very little you can do to avoid it, although you could freeze your left-over egg wash for another time. I've tried dipping the meat or fish in a paste made from flour and water, or milk and cornflour, and the crumbs do stick "sort-of", but then you end up with a slightly pasty, and definitely not light, end product. You could also use either just the white or the yolk and use the other half of the egg for something else. If you have a yolk left over you could put it in a bowl (or jam jar) with some mustard and lemon juice and then beat it with some oil and chopped capers to make a lovely dressing for the schnitzel, or you could whisk in some wasabi, grated ginger, sunflower oil and a little sesame oil to accompany the fish. If you have some egg white left over, it's quite hard to know what to do with it as they're somewhat less versatile and short of making a tiny amount of meringue or clarifying a stock, there's not a lot to be done. It might just be that freezing the excess is your best bet.
Then of course there's the dilemma of the breadcrumbs themselves, although I imagine many reading this make their own breadcrumbs.
I rarely have any old bread hanging about in my home, so I have to say I cheat and always have a packet of panko crumbs at hand. These are the most fabulous crumbs of all (although quite pricey) and are fascinating as they are Japanese in origin. Japanese cuisine doesn't have an historical bread culture like the artisan breads we now see being made the length and breadth of the country. Bread just isn't a traditional Japanese commodity, and yet it is they who have concocted the best crumbs. Ever. Panko crumbs are white and resemble slightly long, coarse shavings. They are also sometimes called honey panko - hinting at honey being included in the mixture - although if you read the list of ingredients honey rarely makes an appearance. One thing they do contain is sugar, and this means that when the white crumbs are deep-fried the sugar caramelises and you end up with a glorious golden crumb, not a dense brown one if using super-fine crumbs. The next best thing to them (less expensive and relatively easy to do) is to grate 2-3 day old crustless sourdough with a coarse grater and you'll end up with something similar - a lovely texture, and the added advantage of sourdough is the lovely sourness inherent in the bread. Many Jewish-owned fish and chip shops in London use crushed matzo crackers (eaten traditionally during Passover celebrations) to crumb their fish, and I've also enjoyed fish and chicken crusted with smashed cornflakes which are, unsurprisingly, delicious too.
When I was a kid, we'd dry left-over bread in the oven on trays, often it'd turn toasty brown in colour. We'd then blitz the dry bread in our Kenwood Chef blender until it was superfine crumbs and this is what I grew up having on the outside of wiener schnitzel, and still adore. If we'd had a food processor then, then that would have done a better job, but I doubt many New Zealand households had such fancy things back in the 60s.
Gran, on the other hand, would toast her bread in the oven the same way, then place the broken up toast in a brown paper bag and bash it to buggery using a rolling pin. Same end result, but a little more coarse and therefore more interesting texturally.
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