August 13, 2013

Schnitzel at the fair: On a stick, as a burger

By Doug Harlow dharlow@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

SKOWHEGAN — It's not your regular fair offering. But there it is anyway, tucked between an Italian sausage vendor and a fried dough concession on the midway of the Skowhegan State Fair.

Johanna Franz is selling German schnitzel.

Schnitzel on a stick with grilled onions. Schnitzel tacos. Schnitzel burgers and German potato pancakes.

For Franz, 52, of Trescott, which is near Lubec in Washington County, this year was her first try at selling her schnitzel at the Skowhegan fair.

She said Monday the reception has been good so far.

"It's absolutely fantastic," Franz said, with a hint of a German accent in her voice. "The people who come to the fair really seem to take the step here to experiment with food. I am very impressed."

Schnitzel is pork loin that has been trimmed of fat and pounded flat with a kitchen meat hammer to tenderize it. Veal also can be used for the more familiar wiener schnitzel. The meat is marinated for a minimum of two days in her own concoction of red wine, garlic, onions, herbs and spices.

The meat is then coated in flour and beaten eggs, rubbed with spices and grilled for three to four minutes.

Also on the menu at her homemade food trailer she calls Sunny Waters Grille is a lobster burger and made-from-scratch, deep-fried cheesecake rolls with blueberry sauce. Both are her own creations. She also makes cold teas made from blueberries, pomegranate and elder flowers from her own elder tree.

Chad Henderson and his mother Janice of Malborough, Conn., stopped by the schnitzel stand Monday, mainly out of curiosity.

"I didn't really know exactly what it was, but I wanted to try it," Chad Henderson said. "It sounded interesting and it sounds like it has a neat flavor and I like stuff from other countries. It's taking a couple minutes; that usually means it's going to be really good."

With his first taste of schnitzel on a stick, Chad Henderson said the taste of the meat and the spices was just what he expected.

"It's wonderful -- a lot of taste -- the first bite was really flavorful," he said. "I could taste the seasoning, whatever the rub is on it. That's really good. Very soft and tender."

Franz was born in Chicago to German-Yugoslavian parents. Her father left before she was a year old and she and her mother returned to Germany where Franz said she started cooking about age 10. She later attended a culinary school in Germany.

Franz came back to the United States in 1988, settled in Massachusetts where she learned to speak English. She and her husband and three sons moved to Maine in 1993, where she opened the Cutler General Store and Restaurant, which served German and American cuisine.

It was in coastal Cutler that she got the idea for her lobster burgers, Franz said. Local fishermen would bring in scallops for her to cook and one day she chopped up the mollusks with onions and spices and the scallop burger was born and became an immediate hit with the locals.

She adopted that recipe using lobster.

"There is at least 3 or 4 ounces of lobster in each burger, chopped up and held together with egg and a seafood stock -- I want to imitate the taste of baked stuffed lobster," she said.

Franz said she has set up shop at smaller festivals and fairs Down East, where she lives, and at the Bangor State Fair, also for the first time this year.

The jump to Skowhegan this year was a gamble.

"I'm glad I came to Skowhegan -- it's a beautiful fair -- the fairgrounds, rest rooms, everything is well maintained; clean, absolutely wonderful," she said. "I think by yesterday I already have made the rent money."

Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or at
dharlow@mainetoday.com

 

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