The most traditional of all Russian dishes is the Olivie Salad, or Russian Salad. This dish was made for family holidays, family reunions, national holidays, religious holidays, church gatherings and other special events. Young girls in Russia learned how to make this perfect comfort salad during the holidays while they assisted the women of the family in the kitchen. Men were usually out hunting or chopping firewood and tending to guest’s horses.
Recipes for the Russian salad are passed down from generation to generation and are guarded jealously. During the New Year’s holiday Russian Salad is on nearly every table throughout the nation. Often times, leftover poultry or wild game eaten for the Christmas day meal is stored and used for the New Year’s Olivie Salad.
Olivie salad resembles potato salad, with a twist of vegetables and meat. In times past, the first Russians to make this salad used wild game they hunted from the countryside. For many people in centuries past, meat salads were a go-to option, much like bread, rice and beans was and still is a pantry staple.
Meat was very expensive in city market places, and no many people could afford to purchase fish, meat or poultry. This is still true today in many third-world or developing nations. For this reason, many recipes that have been handed down generation after generation originated with wild game as an ingredient. These recipes are just as delicious with farm raised meats or even store bought, processed meats. Be creative, but try to stay true to the essence of the original recipe.
The Russians are wise with their food budget and usage, and this salad is a mouthwatering example of one of the world’s best ways to use up left over holiday turkey or ham. Because the salad uses household staples that can be found anywhere, it is a wonderful, somewhat healthy and creative meal option in any household.
Prepare a Non-Traditional Russian Salad
Russian salad eaten in the west is different than what a true Russian salad is meant to be. All of the ingredients in an authentic salad are cooked; there are never raw vegetables added to authentic Russian Salad. It is perfectly fine to use fresh, uncooked ingredients to make a non-traditional Russian Salad. However, creating a non-traditional recipe, which uses cooked vegetables, is somewhat close to a real Russian salad, yet more familiar to westerners.
- Ham or salami
- Canned or fully cooked fresh peas
- Diced carrots
- Dill pickles
- Boiled eggs
- Boiled potatoes
- Grated cheddar cheese
- Bacon bits
- Salad dressing or other favorite salad toppers
This recipe gives no specific measurements. Use one vegetable of each type for each person to be fed. Add mayonnaise and pickles to taste. This non-specific cooking style is a wonderful way to learn about personal preferences and develop new cooking skills.
- Peel, boil and chop equal portions of carrots and potatoes.
- Blend together and set the diced, cooled vegetables aside.
- Dice an equal amount of ham or salami into the bowl.
- Press three large pickles dry using paper towels and dice these as well.
- Add them to the bowl and stir very gently.
- Add cooked, cooled peas or use canned peas.
- Add mayonnaise until all of the ingredients are well incorporated into a creamy blend.
- Chop the boiled eggs and scatter them across the top of the bowl.
- Refrigerate the salad for at least 30 minutes before adding grated cheddar cheese, bacon bits, a favorite salad dressing, etc. and serve to guests.
- Each serving should be about 3 scoops from a standard ice-cream scoop.
Prepare a Traditional Russian Salad
As stated above, wild game can be cooked and chopped into this salad. Using leftover turkey or baked chicken from previous meals is a great way to stretch the food budget while eating a truly delicious meal. It is also acceptable to use bologna or sausage in the salad and still have a traditional Olivie Salad. Keep in mind that leftover Olivie Salad is wonderful, as all of the flavors of the ingredients have been given the chance to incorporate throughout the salad while left in the refrigerator overnight. This is one of those meals that is even better the second day.
- Green peas
The following recipe is very simple, but also very traditional and delicious. In order to be authentic, it is necessary to cook all of the vegetables and meat that will be used. None of the ingredients should be raw, and all of the flavors should meld when incorporated with mayonnaise. This recipe yields four servings.
Salat Olivier – Russian Potato Salad
½ lb potatoes – Red are best
½ lb carrots – Not baby carrots
3 large eggs – Farm eggs are perfect
4 small dill pickles – Do not use sweet pickles
¼ lb meat – Chicken, turkey or cold roasted meats are traditional
¼ lb green peas – These can be frozen and cooked at home or canned peas may be used
½ tsp salt
Mayonnaise until the desired texture is achieved. This may require up to ¼ lb of mayonnaise.
- Boil and chop the potatoes and carrots into cubes.
- Boil, peel and slice the eggs.
- Dice cold left over meats.
- Chop or dice dill pickles.
- Add green peas and salt.
- Stir gently until all ingredients are incorporated evenly throughout the bowl.
- Slowly add the mayonnaise while continuing to stir gently.
- The salad should never be dry, but rather very creamy.
- Vegetables should have enough mayonnaise to coat all of the outer edges of the cubes but the colors of the vegetables should still be visible.
- It should sound somewhat sticky or tacky when stirred.
Throwing in a Little Twist
Though it is not traditional, some people like to add Russian dressing to their salads. To make a Russian dressing at home, mix mayonnaise, pimientos, chives, ketchup and Russian spice blends available at most large grocery stores. True Russian dressing also includes caviar, though most dressing recipes exclude this expensive and unnecessary luxury ingredient.
Russian salad is a very traditional, special meal that should be shared with close family and friends. Invite over loved ones, pull out the leftovers and spend quality time cooking great, healthy foods while bonding.