This Olivier Salad is a delicious traditional Russian dish; a staple of the winter holidays season!
Hello, everyone! Throughout this year, I might have surprisingly asked “Where did this time go?” for a dozen times or so. Here we go. It’s the finish line. New Year will arrive shortly. And I have no doubts another year will pass by extremely fast, too. That’s the sad but inevitable part of everyone’s life, right?
However, let’s not think about sad things today. Besides, like you or not, we cannot fix this time issue anyways. Let’s focus on delicious things instead.
As you might remember, over the past two years, I have shared some traditional Russian recipes, and I thought it would be awesome to wrap my blogging year up with this Olivier Salad. Why? It’s been the staple in Russian cuisine for many decades. While nowadays it might not be as popular as in the 1980s, many families still make it at least once a year. In fact, it’s the staple of the New Year’s Eve celebration!
Probably, you never heard this name – Olivier Salad; however, you might have heard another name Russian Salad or Russian Potato Salad. That’s the same. Indeed, you might have even tried it before as it’s quite common in many European countries, Asia, and even Latin America.
The original version of this salad was invented in the 1860s by the Belgium chef Lucien Olivier who was the chef of one of the fanciest Moscow restaurants, the Hermitage, and it quickly became the restaurant’s signature dish.
The original recipe (And particularly the dressing) was a huge secret (Olivier always prepared the dressing in solitude), but it is known the salad contained grouse, veal, caviar, crayfish tails, capers, smoked duck, olive oil, and mustard. The ingredients might have been varied seasonally.
Later, one of Olivier’s sous-chefs, Ivan Ivanov might have attempted to steal the recipe when he began to serve a similar salad under the name “Capital Salad”. However, people noted that the dressing was a lower quality than Olivier’s as it was “missing something”. In 1905, the Hermitage was closed, and Olivier’s family left Russia. Soon after, the salad started being referred to as “Olivier”.
Certainly, there were other attempts to recreate his signature salad, substituting cheaper ingredients for rare and expensive. In post-revolutionary Russia, the transformation completed. Grouse was replaced by chicken or sausage, crayfish by hard-boiled eggs, capers and olives by pickled cucumbers and green peas. For many years, a Soviet brand of bologna had been used as well. And the dressing? Mayonnaise! In fact, some fancy restaurants continued to experiment with ingredients in the mid of the 20th centre introducing lobster, truffles, tongue, anchovy. However, due to the outrageous deficiency, only cheap ingredients were available (And finding some of them wasn’t an easy task either!) for average people, a simplified version with bologna had been the most common for many years in the soviet kitchens.
That’s not a problem nowadays, and you can find the protein you like! I believe bologna isn’t the most popular ingredient these days, and most people prefer to use good quality ham. Chicken is a great option too. But you can use cooked beef, veal, and even your turkey leftovers!
What are the essential parts of the Olivier Salad?
- Protein – ham, boiled chicken or beef, or for the authentic soviet version – bologna;
- Cucumber pickles;
- Hard-boiled eggs;
- Boiled potatoes and carrots;
- Green peas (canned, for the authentic Soviet version);
Undoubtfully, this is a versatile salad (Many people dislike cooked carrots, so feel free to omit it). The proportions are a matter of your choice (Can be easily adjusted, too!) Try the ratio: 1-1,5 cups of meat to 3 cups of vegetables (potatoes, carrots, and peas) to ½ cup of pickles, and 4-6 hard-boiled eggs, and then adjust to your taste. Personally, we love to take 2 cups of ham, 2 cups of potatoes, 1 cup of green peas, and just a little (or none) of carrots. Also, undoubtfully, this is not a healthy recipe. Sorry about that. But you can make mayo from scratch if you wish. And there’s something so good in the combination of proteins, fats, and starch. You don’t need to worry about layers. I used glass for the presentational purpose only – just combine everything in a large bowl, and you’re good to go!
Of course, this Olivier Salad is nothing to do with the original Olivier Salad. However, unfairly, this Soviet version is now associated with this sinfully unhealthy yet delicious salad. Would you give a try this Olivier Salad?
I am going to take it easy and take a break from blogging for the next couple of weeks, so I’d like to wish you an awesome New Year’s Eve celebration and all the best in the new year, and see you soon, in 2020!
- 3 large potatoes (See notes)
- 2 large carrots
- 1 – 1,5 cups of canned green peas, drained
- 5-6 eggs
- 5-7 large or about 10 small picked cucumbers
- about 300 gr. lean ham, cubed
- between 1/2 and 3/4 cup of mayonnaise of your choice
- black pepper, to taste
- dill, chopped, for serving (optional)
- Boil the potatoes and carrots until easily pierced with a fork but still firm, peel and chop into small cubes. Place in a large bowl unless you want to serve individually, layered. Drain and cube the pickles, and add in the bowl along with the drained green peas.
- Hard-boil the eggs (About 7 minutes from the boiling moment), cool, peel and chop into small cubes. Add to the boll.
- Add in the cubed ham.
- Fold in the mayonnaise (If you’re making this salad in advance, keep it refrigerated and add in the mayo just before ready to serve).
- Mix well and try. Season with some black pepper. Some ingredients are salty, so I never add any salt, but that’s up to you.
1. This is only a guideline, not a strict recipe. The ingredients can be adjusted to your liking. Try this ratio: 1 – 1,5 cups of cubed protein to 3 cups of cooked and cubed vegetables (potatoes, carrots, and green peas) to 1 cup of hard-boiled and chopped eggs (about 5-6 eggs) to 1/2 cup cubed pickled cucumbers. That’s a good start, but keep on hand a few extra cucumbers, potatoes, and some ham. Personally, carrots are not my favourite part of this salad, and I added just a little, for the colour, increased the presence of potatoes (about 1,5 cups cooked and cubed potatoes to 1/2 cup of cooked and cubed carrots).
2. This is also a versatile salad. While the listed ingredients are common for most recipes, you can play with their ratio or even omit some of them. Don’t like carrots? Go ahead, omit and substitute for more potatoes! Don’t want ham? Switch to chicken or even grilled chicken. Not a fan of pickled? What about some capers instead?
3. This is not a healthy salad, it’s high in calories and sodium; also it features saturated fats. If you wish to make it a bit healthier, switch ham to cooked chicken breasts and make mayo from scratch. Also, you can use 1/2 fat-free store-bought mayor even use the combo of plain yogurt and mayo; however, the flavour would be slightly affected. I know some people don’t add potatoes either, but potatoes are an important part, in my opinion.
4. This salad will be perfectly fine in the refrigerator, for 3-4 days. Indeed, I think it even tastes better the next day, so go ahead and double it. I would only suggest adding the mayo right before serving.