Swiss spin-off: Züricher Geschnetzeltes

While searching on Züricher (and its variant Zürcher), as part of a look at men named Peter Zwicky in the Zürich area, I came across Züricher Geschnetzeltes, a characteristic Swiss dish that I did not experience as a child, but in fact first encountered at a little restaurant on Limmatstraße in Zürich — in September 1972, almost 46 years ago. A very simple veal dish, served on freshly made noodles, but absolutely perfect: melt-in-the-mouth strips of veal in a sauce that was both brown and creamy, elegant yet intense. Julienned carrots sauteed in butter. A crispy white wine. A plain green salad.

Something along these lines, but with noodles:

  (#1)

(A style of food that is, unfortunately, not particularly photogenic.)

From Wikipedia:

Zürcher Geschnetzeltes (German for “sliced meat Zurich style”, Züri-Gschnätzlets in Zürich German, émincé de veau zurichoise in French) is a Swiss dish from the Zurich region.

The first mention of Zürcher Geschnetzeltes is in a cookbook from 1947. That recipe describes the ingredients as sliced veal strips, white wine, cream, and demiglace. Contemporary recipes additionally call for sliced veal kidney and mushrooms. [In my experience, almost always mushrooms, but only occasionally with sliced veal kidney, though that makes for a richer dish.]

The veal and kidney are cut into small thin strips. The meat is sautéed quickly in a very hot pan with a little butter and a bit of chopped onion. Then the meat is taken out of the pan and kept warm. White wine is added to the same pan with cream and demiglace and reduced into a sauce. The meat is added to the hot but not boiling reduction. Sliced mushrooms are added. Finally, the dish is garnished with pepper, salt, paprika powder and lemon juice.

It is typically served with rösti but is widely enjoyed with spätzle, tagliatelle, rice, [wild rice,] or mashed potatoes. [Or provide French bread to soak up the sauce, peasant-style.]

When Ann (Daingerfield Zwicky) and I had it back in 1972, we recognized it as a first cousin of beef Stroganoff — and also as a dish that could be made quickly and easily.

Note on the names. I don’t know a German verb schnetzeln that would have the past participle geschnetzelt ‘sliced’, but I assume it is, or was, a varant of, or related to, the verb schnitzeln ‘shred, chop up’. But the French is straightforward, except for a meaning shift in the past participle used as an adjective:

adj. émincé: thinly sliced (lit. ‘chopped up, minced’ < verb émincer)

masc. noun émincé: a dish of thin slices of meat

On to émincé de veau ‘thin slices of veal’, which can be an extremely simple, as in a recipe on Pierre Franey’s New York Times food site for “Emince de Veau a la Suisse (Sauteed cubed veal in cream)” — the site seems to eschew diacritics — seasoned with parsley, shallots, tarragon, and chives, but without mushrooms or kidneys. The recipe, from Franey’s recipe from 60 Minute Gourmet is said to take only 20 minutes in preparation.

On the SwissMilk site, a recipe for this émincé de veau à la zurichoise (plenty of mushrooms, veal in strips), served with rösti:

  (#2)

On the Le Monde Chef Simon site, a recipe for this émincé de veau with sauce foie gras (no mushrooms, veal in cubes or chunks), served on noodles:

  (#3)

As you can see, there’s plenty of variation in the details. There are curried versions of Geschnetzeltesémincé de veau, versions with mustard (moving the dish closer to beef Stroganoff), very white and creamy versions, some using brandy instead of white wine, etc.

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