Here, we come to a true classic. When a person who grew up in the former Soviet Union thinks of Russian food, Salad Olivier is one of the first things that come to mind. In fact, the taste of fresh homemade Olivier is one of my favorite childhood memories, which is surely something I share with a lot of people. When done right, the combination of savory potatoes, sweet peas and carrots, and salty pickles becomes irresistible. Olivier was traditionally made only on special occasions, such as birthday parties and New Year’s Eve celebrations. Traditions aside, this dish is easy enough to prepare any time you have half an hour to spare, as long as the potatoes, eggs, and carrots are cooked ahead of time. It is also filling enough and nutritious enough to make a meal in itself.
Salad Olivier has a colorful history. According to Wikipedia, it was invented by the French chef Lucien Olivier, who owned the first French restaurant in Moscow in 1860’s. The original version of the salad was made with grouse, crayfish, beef tongue, capers, and caviar, dressed with a house-made mayonnaise sauce. The exact recipes for the salad and for the sauce were closely guarded by the chef and were lost in the turmoil of wars and revolutions in the first decades of the 20th century. The recipe was recreated by a former employee of Chef Olivier, who greatly simplified it to accommodate the lean economic conditions after the Russian revolution by replacing the grouse with bologna or cooked chicken, crayfish with carrots (since both are red), capers and caviar with green peas and pickles. We can say that the only thing the modern Salad Olivier has in common with the original version is the concept of cooked vegetables dressed with mayonnaise. In the version shown here, we use canned salmon as a worthy substitute for the grouse. A slice of dark rye bread served with this salad adds a touch of old-school authenticity.
3 medium russet potatoes
2 large carrots
3 eggs (with or without yolks)
3 pickles (preferably the spicy kind)
8 oz frozen green peas
1 15 oz can of salmon
5 tablespoons mayonnaise
5 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 teaspoon salt, add more as needed
Black pepper to taste
- Boil the potatoes, carrots and eggs in the same pot until the carrots and potatoes are easily pierced with a fork (15-20 minutes).
- Chop potatoes, carrots, eggs, and pickles into small and uniform cubes.
- Throw the frozen peas into boiling water to thaw and take out after about 2 minutes.
- Combine all ingredients and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.