Milanesas – a crucial dish in Argentine cuisine.
If you’ve ever visited or lived in Latin America, you would have noticed that milanesas are a commonplace dish, served in almost all traditional restaurants and cooked in almost every household.
In Argentina, where I’m currently living, the milanesa is an almost irreplaceable dish that is very deeply ingrained in Argentina culture and cuisine. (If you’re wondering why I’m living in Buenos Aires now, everything is explained in the About Me section). Back to the milanesas. There are all types of milanesas with different fillings, ranging from the more traditional beef and chicken fillings, to more funky and modern eggplant or even soybean fillings. I have to say I like almost all the different types of milanesas, because I am not a very fussy eater, and because it is such an easy dish to eat.
What are milanesas?
According to Wikipedia, the milanesa is a common breaded cutlet dish, mostly found in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela, as well as in Italy and other American countries to a lesser extent, where breaded meat fillet preparations are known as a milanesa (In Portuguese, the beef version is called bife à milanesa and the chicken version is called frango à milanesa).
The milanesa was brought to the Southern Cone of South America from Central European immigrants, its name probably reflecting an original Milanese preparation cotoletta alla milanese, which is similar to the Austrian Wiener Schnitzel.
A milanesa consists of a thin slice of beef, chicken, veal, or sometimes pork, and even eggplants or soy. Each slice is dipped into beaten eggs, seasoned with salt, and other condiments according to the cook’s taste (like parsley and garlic). Each slice is then dipped in bread crumbs (or occasionally flour) and shallow-fried in oil, one at a time. Some people prefer to use very little oil and then bake them in the oven as a healthier alternative.
In Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Spain, and Uruguay, milanesas are frequently served hot with fried or mashed potatoes; this dish is known as milanesa con papas fritas or milanesa con puré. In Argentina and Uruguay, it can be topped with a fried egg, known as milanesa a caballo (milanesa riding horseback). They are often eaten cold as a sandwich filling, with salad. Lemon juice and sometimes mayonnaise are commonly used as a seasoning. Their low cost and simple preparation make milanesas a popular meal.
The best milanesa in Argentina, EVER.
As most Argentines basically grew up with the milanesa, almost everyone has a view on where you can eat the best milanesas, or who makes the best milanesas. My boyfriend, Juan, who is Argentine and extremely porteño (the word for people from Buenos Aires), swears that the best beef milanesas in the world (or at least Argentina), are those made by his mum Susana. I haven’t tried that many milanesas in Argentina to be able to make that declaration, but among those that I have tried, hers are definitely the best and healthiest.
There is a huge debate over whether milanesas should be baked in the oven or fried in oil. Many people insist that the only authentic way to cook milanesas are by frying them, and even state that fried milanesas are tasty whereas oven-baked milanesas are dry and lacking in flavor.
I disagree wholeheartedly. Susana’s oven-baked milanesas are absolutely flavorful and definitely a much healthier option. Of course, you can always add more ingredients such as very finely chopped dried garlic and finely chopped parsley in the egg mixture when making milanesas, but here’s Susana’s traditional way of doing them (she’s been making them this way for the past 30 years, so trust me, THEY ARE GOOD). I decided to shadow her last night when she made these wonderful milanesas from scratch, and have documented her golden steps as closely as possible.
MILANESAS DE CARNE (Makes around 60-70)
1) 1.3 – 1.5kg of round steak (sliced very thinly)
2) 1.5kg of fine bread crumbs (store-bought, if not you can make your own by finely shredding toasted bread)
3) 6 – 7 eggs
4) 2 tablespoons of yellow mustard
5) 100ml of full cream milk
6) Salt to taste (optional)
1) Pour bread crumbs in a large flat plate
2) Press the beef slices in the bread crumbs on both sides, then place slices on another plate
3) Make a egg mixture by scrambling eggs with mustard and milk
4) Take the pre-breaded beef slices from step 2 and dip them quickly in the egg mixture
5) Press these beef slices from step 4 into bread crumbs again (this is the second bread crumb layer)
6) Pour some vegetable oil in an oven-safe baking tray until the entire bottom surface of tray is covered in oil
7) Arrange uncooked milanesas in the baking tray and cook in oven at very low heat (160 deg celcius) until milanesas start turning very slight brown (might take around 15 minutes)
8) Flip milanesas over to the other side and take out of oven after 5 minutes
9) Serve warm with lemon juice, mayonnaise or mustard, with a side of salad or mashed potatoes