On their own, with lemon, a la napolitana, stuffed, fried, baked, however you like them. Every family has their own favorite cut and coating but whatever the preference the milanesa is an ever-present on the Argentine table (even in vegetarian versions or with different meats).
Argentinians have appropriated the concept of the milanesa. It’s part of the country’s gastronomic and cultural heritage, charged with symbolism as it represents the coming together of two of the country’s historic treasures: beef and wheat.
The traditional Argentine milanesa fills the freezers of Argentine homes everywhere: it’s perfect for a quick meal, and delivers a huge amount of flavor.
The combination of beefsteak, bread, egg, garlic, parsley and salt can’t be beat in any of its different incarnations: on the plate with lemon and fries or mashed potatoes, in a sandwich, with a fried egg on top, a la napolitana (with tomato sauce, ham and cheese), and in hundreds of other versions, it’s always delicious.
The argentine milanesa is all-terrain, it goes well with everything.
It’s not known where the dish came from; people say it was invented in Milan or Vienna (its ancestors may be the Cotoletta alla Milanese or the Wiener Schnitzel).
A national icon eaten in every restaurant and inn in the country, the milanesa is a category all to itself.
“A lot of people go into the butcher shop and ask straight out for a kilo of beef for milanesas, without specifying the cut,” says Christian Petersen, a famous Argentinian chef and meat expert.
The Argentine milanesa: the master recipe
Several different cuts can be used to make Argentine milanesas but there are four classic choices: flank steak, rump steak, cuadrado or silverside, all from the animal’s hind quarters.
The technique is simple: the slices of beef are trimmed to remove fat and tissue, then they are seasoned, dipped in egg and breadcrumbs and cooked.
Ideally, you ask the butcher not to cut them too thin so the flavor of the beef comes out better. Another good idea for making a top drawer Argentine milanesa is to flavor the eggs well with crushed or chopped garlic, parsley, salt, pepper and a teaspoon of mustard. Then stir until the texture is consistent.
For the breadcrumb coating, once it has been dipped in the egg and shaken dry, it is then dipped in the bed of crumbs. Some families do the process twice, dipping it into the egg and breadcrumbs for a second time, but that’s very much a personal choice.
Some important tips: a good Argentine milanesa doesn’t lose its coating. To achieve that one must press hard but carefully and make sure that all the meat is fully covered.
Of course, there are other options for the coating: panko, oats, or seed mixes separately and in combination.
Fried or baked? The manual says that they’re tastier fried. Not so healthy but delicious. If you’re going to fry them, put them in the refrigerator beforehand so they’ll absorb less oil.
It’s best to use corn or sunflower oil, making sure that the temperature is just right, not too hot or cool, and to fry them in batches. If you try to cook them all together you’ll lower the temperature of the oil.
If you cook them in the oven, then the important thing is to heat up the tray beforehand so that the milanesas won’t stick.
What wines go best with argentine milanesa?
“Classic” milanesas. If they were well-fried and crunchy, the best choices are a light red, a fruity rosé or a fresh, classic Chardonnay.
Milanesa Napolitana. This is an Argentine invention, the creation of the Napoli restaurant in front of the famous Luna Park stadium and dates back to the 1940s. As mentioned above, these are milanesas covered in tomato sauce, with cooked ham and mozzarella or another melted cheese. It goes best with a good Semillon-Chardonnay or a tart young red like a Bonarda.
Milanesa sandwich. Here it depends a lot on the garnishes but the classic is tomato and lettuce. Malbec is always your friend in these scenarios.
Recipe for the perfect Argentine milanesa
- 1 kg of beef (rump, silverside, cuadrada or flank steak)
- 4 eggs
- 2 cloves of garlic
- Chopped parsley
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon of mustard
- Chop the garlic and parsley, mix with the mustard.
- Beat the eggs and season with the above mix, salt and pepper.
- Let the meat sit in the eggs for a few minutes. Strain the milanesas and dip into the breadcrumbs.
- Fry in a pan with plenty of oil until golden, then withdraw and dry on absorbent paper before serving.