My Life, My Obsessions

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

My Most Requested Meal

Milanesa and Ensalada Rusa is probably the most requested meal I make aside from Kraft macaroni and cheese and ramen noodles. And we're not counting those because the voters didn't have a current voters' registration card, which could be because they're too young.

We make this meal every time we see my in-laws. As long as we make this, we have no fear of being disinherited. Plus we love my mother-in-law and she asks so nicely that we can't resist indulging her.

A little history: I spent a year and a half in Northern Argentina on a church mission. Unlike other parts of South America, they serve very little rice and beans in Argentina. Actually, I never ate rice and beans while I was there. Instead they serve a lot of beef -carne asada, chorizo, empanadas, etc. This is because Argentina has excellent beef. Milanesa happens to be one of those beef dishes. It's made from a thin slice of beef (the cut varies, but is usually from some type of steak or roast). Then you pound away at it to tenderize it and make it even thinner. It's dipped in egg, breaded, and then fried. It's often served with lettuce and tomato salad (with salt and fresh lemon juice and sometimes oil as the dressing) or french fries. The Milanesa itself can be eaten with fresh lemon or mayonnaise. Argentine mayonnaise is different than American. It's much better and more closely resembles Japanese Kewpie. If you've never tried it, I highly recommend tracking down the nearest foreign foods store and grabbing a bottle. It looks like this. Typical of the Japanese culture, it's very cute.

Ensalada Rusa actually means "Russian Salad." I have no idea where the name came from. It's a simple potato salad, although different from the standard potato salad that we see at American picnics and barbeques.

Step 1: Peel and cut potatoes. The size doesn't matter as long as you can fit them daintily into your mouth without embarrassing yourself. This preparation will also help your kids from embarrassing you by shoving huge potatoes into their mouths and trying to talk around them.

Step 2: Boil the potatoes. You want them cooked through, but not mushy. We're not making mashed potatoes. If they're too mushy, they fall apart when you add the sauce.

Step 3: Cut up and cook carrots. Or you can skip this part if you buy the frozen peas and carrots mix at the store. This is what we do. Add cooked (or at least thawed) carrots and peas to the potatoes.

Step 4: Convince my husband to come over and make the sauce. He's really good at it and refuses to write down any sort of recipe. If this fails, pour a small amount of oil over the potatoes. Argentines love to cook with oil, plus it keeps the potatoes from absorbing too much moisture and falling apart. The sauce is basically Kewpie, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. I think my husband adds some other stuff simply because he can't help himself.

Milanesa was one of my favorite dishes in Argentina. I realize that it's not strictly Argentine. Judging by the name, it probably originated in Milan, Italy, but don't quote me on that. It's also common in parts of Brazil.

Step 1: Cut the meat (I like to use boneless, skinless chicken breasts) into really thin pieces. If you have a good relationship with your butcher, this would be a good time to pull in a favor. I had a butcher at Albertsons hand cut a roast for me. If that fails, or if you're using chicken, it's easiest to cut it while it's semi frozen. If it's thawed, it wiggles around and is really difficult to cut. If it's too frozen, your knife won't cut it. Using a really sharp knife is helpful. No matter how you do it, be careful. I am always sure that I'm going to slice a good portion of my hand or finger off during this step.

Ideally, you will end up with a nice stack of randomly shaped thin slices. I used 4 big breasts for 5 adults and 1 child (the other child only used hers as a dipping device and never really ate any). We always have leftovers. I figure if you're going to put in the effort, you might as well go all out. The leftovers also make great sandwhiches.

Step 2: Beat 3-4 eggs in a bowl. Pour breadcrumbs (you will use the entire container) into a shallow bowl and a little oregano and garlic powder. Other good spices to add are onion powder, parsley, paprika, and garlic salt. It's up to you, but don't get carried away with it. Dip the sliced meat (individually) into eggs and then into the bread mixture. Place them on a plate to await Step 3.

Step 3: Fry the egged and breaded meat. Make sure that they are cooked through. No one wants to have their spouse accuse them of food poisoning. Lay the cooked milanesa on paper towels to absorb some of the grease. They should look about like this when they are done.

Serve the milanesa with Argentine mayo (or Kewpie) and lemon. We also had cucumber with ranch and an apple-pear, but those didn't make it into the leftovers picture below.

We also made coconut macaroons. Sorry, it's a secret family recipe that my mom conned another family into sharing with her. As a result, I'm not allowed to share it. But they're yummy and I don't even like coconut.

With all the yummy food, we had a great visit with my in-laws and were sad to say goodbye. We've already scheduled the next visit and milanesa dinner for this summer.

Hopefully I'll have a chance to make ñoquis, which the Argentines borrowed from the Italians as well. Except that the Italians spell it gnocchis. They also borrowed canelone from the Italians. I have a recipe for that too. Now I'm getting hungry.



  • Looks delish! I was so excited when I saw the macaroons, but no recipe. Understandable, some are just too good to share, our family has a secret or two as well. I don't like coconut either, but macaroons are one of my favs! God figure!

    By Blogger PeWee, At 4:36 AM  

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