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What is Milanesa?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 16, 2024
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Milanesa is a South and Central American dish that can be prepared and served in a number of ways. In general, it begins with a fairly thin cutlet of meat, often beef though chicken and veal can also be used. This cutlet is dipped in egg, dredged in breadcrumbs that may be flavored with seasonings and grated cheese, and then lightly fried or baked. Milanesa can be served by itself as a dish in its own right, or it can be topped with melted cheese and then placed on a bun to create a sandwich.

The name “milanesa” comes from the traditional Milanese dish known as cotoletta alla milanese, which is a veal cutlet that is breaded and fried lightly in butter. Immigrants from Europe brought this dish, and similar dishes such as Wiener schnitzel, to South and Central America. While the original cotoletta was typically prepared using veal, chefs in countries such as Argentina typically prefer to use beef, though chicken and veal are used as well. Milanesa begins with fairly thin beef steaks, though thicker beef steaks can be cut or pounded thinner.

This beef is usually coated in egg and then dredged in breadcrumbs; some recipes may call for flour as well, though fresh breadcrumbs are usually sufficient. These breadcrumbs are often mixed with grated parmesan cheese, fresh herbs such as parsley, as well as salt, pepper, and minced garlic. The milanesa is then shallow fried in a pan or skillet, usually in some oil, though butter can be used. Some recipes may call for cooking of the milanesa in an oven, rather than frying, and this is often done on a baking sheet or pan that is lightly brushed with oil.

Once the milanesa is cooked it can be served on its own, often with mashed potatoes or French fries. A popular variation of this dish tops the cooked beef steak with slices of mozzarella, sometimes with a slice of ham as well. The milanesa is then placed under a broiler until the cheese melts; this can then be served on a plate or may be served on a bun as a sandwich. This preparation is typically referred to as alla napolitana, which refers to the name of the restaurant that first prepared it this way, rather than Neapolitan cuisine.

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