Cleopatra’s Myth & Schnitzel?

June 29, 2010

Celerity is never more admired than by the negligent.
~Cleopatra

The iconic Egyptian pharaoh, Cleopatra VII, committed suicide in 30 BC. She had had her day in the sun, but then faced those dogged Sartrean existential questions of suicide and those damned ideations. According to legend, she died from a self-inflicted venomous bite from an asp—a snake now known as the Egyptian cobra.

German historian and professor at the University of Trier, Christoph Schäfer, has recently uncovered evidence to dispute the age old tale. Professor Schäfer alleges that the nacissine queen was unlikely to have subjected herself to that long, miserable and disfiguring death from an asp’s venomous fangs.

He travelled to Alexandria, consulting ancient medical texts and conferring with herpetologists, who advised that cobra bites cause a brutal death that covers the body in unsightly welts and takes several days. Eww! she thought. Wanting to remain prim and beautiful to the finish—a pretty stiff—Cleopatra opted for the kinder and gentler effects of drugs, several of which were available in her time. So instead of succumbing to a poisonous serpent, Schäfer posits that she likely took a cocktail of opium, hemlock and aconitum, a common concoction that led to a painless death within just a few hours and thus preserved her vanity.

Despite the Egyptian backdrop there is enough of a teutonic tinge to this to still make a wiener schnitzel recipe à propos. And more fare from your local egg slut.

SCHNITZEL A LA HOLSTEIN

4 veal cutlets, about 1/2″ thick
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 C all purpose flour
4 farm fresh large eggs, beaten
3 C bread crumbs
1 C canola oil

4 farm fresh large eggs
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 high quality anchovies, rinsed and dried

4 T unsalted butter
2 fresh lemons, juiced

Fresh parsley leaves, stemmed and roughly chopped
Capers, rinsed and dried
Peel from 1 fresh lemon, finely grated

Lay the veal slices out on a heavy cutting board and cover with plastic wrap. Using a mallet, pound the meat until thin but not torn. Season with salt and pepper.

Place flour, eggs, and bread crumbs in three separate shallow dishes. Dredge the veal in the flour, shaking off excess. Then, dip into the beaten eggs, allowing excess to drip off. Finally, loosely coat in the bread crumbs. In a heavy, large skillet, heat canola oil to medium high heat. Carefully place the veal pieces into the oil, but do not crowd. There should be enough fat in the saucepan so that the schnitzel float in the saucepan and do not touch the bottom. Cook until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side, turning once. Remove and keep warm tented on a platter, discarding some of the excess oil from the pan yet leaving enough to fry the eggs. You may also consider frying the eggs in a separate skillet with new canola oil.

Crack the eggs into the same skillet, season with salt and pepper and cook until easy and sunny side up, occasionally basting. The yolks should ooze on the plate. Carefully remove and set aside eggs on paper towels. In the same pan, add the butter and squeeze in the lemon juice, while whisking. Cook some until reduced to a glaze.

Place a cooked egg on top of each veal schnitzel on plates. Top the eggs with 2 anchovies each in a criss cross fashion. Drizzle sauce over the veal, then top with eggs, parsley, capers and grated lemon peel.

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