In its home city of Zurich, I was once served Züri gschnätzlets twice in one day, for lunch and dinner. I did my best, but I had to admit defeat less than halfway through dinner.
That's not to say Zurich's famous preparation of sliced veal in a cream sauce, often served mit rösti (with potato rosti) isn't delicious – it's plate-lickingly so – it's just that it is very rich and very generous in portion size.
In Zurich you might see it on the menu as either Zurcher geschnetzeltes (High German) or in the local tongue Swiss German, Züri gschnatzle. It's not an ancient recipe - the first appearance in a cookbook dates to the late 1940s.
How to prepare Züri gschnatzlets
Veal schnitzel is sliced into bite-sized pieces, dusted in flour, and pan-fried with softened onions in butter, then the pan is deglazed with white wine, and cream and stock are added. Mushrooms are a popular addition, as is kidney. Some cooks like to serve this with rice, but in the days I spent in Zurich in the still-balmy start of autumn, I only came across the iconic dish served with rösti.
My second Züri gschnätzlets was served around six hours after the first offering, in the elegant dining room on the first floor of Zunfthaus zur Waag – this baby blue-painted restaurant replete with white shutters looks out over the fairytale-like pedestrianised square Munsterhof in central Zurich.
It's one the city's famed guild houses, pertaining to the guild of wool and linen weavers, and its history stretches back to the 13th century. Inside it's all walnut-panelled walls, parquet floors, white-linen tablecloths and silver service – you can smell the dusty old money but there's a sense of fun about the place. On certain occasions, the fountain in the square is used to "magically" pour white wine from. It's a trick involving a keg hidden beneath the fountain, of course, but in the chocolate-box setting of the area around Zurich's drawcard, the Chagall-windowed Fraumunster cathedral, you will likely almost believe the magic.
Our group of eight had all eaten gschnatzlets in our hotel restaurant at lunchtime, so you can imagine our collective expressions attempting not to look anxious as waitstaff delivered the same dish to our table at Zunfthaus zur Waag.
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Their version came with two rösti, each as wide as my head and rather thick. The rosti were cooked to perfection – crisp and golden edges giving way to the tender, but not at all mushy, interior. The crisp edges mean the rösti stand up to the thick, creamy sauce of the veal: rather than collapsing into a mess, the dish maintains a sense of pride right the way to the end.
It feels like a cliche that Swiss fare leans towards the hearty. From what I saw in a fortnight or so there, portions are indeed generous, as are the calories therein – but I saw nary a citizen obese, which is food for thought.