Russian Salad

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As part of the project of making ‘snackbar’ food from scratch, I thought there should also be a vegetable dish on the menu. Vegetables are not a popular menu item in these ‘restaurants’, unless you count potatoes and ketchup as vegetables. I decided to make a Russian Salad (known as “Huzarensalade” in Dutch, named after hussars, the light cavalry that comes from Russia and other Eastern European countries). Russian Salad consists of boiled potatoes, boiled vegetables, ham, and mayonnaise. I left out the ham to make a vegetarian version, but you could of course include it again. Russian Salad has a bit of a bad name because it is often made with mayonnaise from a jar and canned vegetables. If made fresh and with moderate use of mayonnaise, it can be quite elegant. Another key success factor is to cook the vegetables separately so each can be cooked just right. The work of this salad is in cutting the vegetables into small cubes — I do not know of a household machine that can do this for you.

Part of the ‘fun’ of making a Russian Salad is to decorate the outside with slices of hard-boiled egg, tomatoes, pickles, anchovies, etc. I didn’t have any tomatoes on hand and was hungry, so didn’t put a lot of effort into this step this time around.

Ingredients

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For 4 servings as a side dish

250 grams (.55 lbs) waxy potatoes

100 grams (.22 lbs) carrots

150 grams (.33 lbs) peas, frozen or fresh (but not from a can or jar)

25 grams (1 oz) pickled gherkins (sour)

home-made mayonnaise

white wine vinegar

salt and freshly ground white pepper

extra virgin olive oil

1 hard-boiled egg

garnishes such as more gherkins, tomatoes, anchovies, etc.

2 pinch of sugar

pinch of baking powder

Preparation

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Bring some water to a boil. Add salt to taste, a pinch of sugar and a pinch of baking powder. Add peas (may be still frozen). Bring back to a boil and cook for 2 minutes or until the peas are tender but still firm to the bite. (The baking powder is added for obtaining a very green color rather than olive green. It will also speed up the cooking process, so beware of overcooked peas!)

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Drain the peas.

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Spread them out on a paper towel to cool and dry.

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Peel the potatoes and cut into small cubes about the size of the peas (this is called brunoise). An easy way to do this is to cut into slices crosswise first, stack a few on top of each other and then cut into small squares.

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Rinse the potatoes with cold water to remove the starch. Put the tomatoes into a pot and cover with water. Add salt. Bring to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes or until the potatoes are done but still firm to the bite.

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Drain the potatoes and rinse with cold water.

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Spread out on a paper towel to cool and dry.

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Cut the carrots into brunoise of the same size. An easy way to do this is to half each carrot first. Then cut a carrot half into strips, and finally the strips into cubes.

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Put the carrots in a pot and cover with water. Add salt and a pinch of sugar. Bring to a boil and cook for 4 minutes or until done but still firm to the bite.

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Drain the carrots.

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Spread out on a paper towel to cool and dry.

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Cut the drained gherkins into brunoise as well.

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When the vegetables have all cooled down to room temperature, combine in a bowl and season with salt and freshly ground white pepper. Add some white wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil as well.

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Add mayonnaise to taste.

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Stir to mix. Taste and adjust the seasoning, using your choice of additional mayonnaise, salt, freshly ground white mustard, white wine vinegar, and/or extra virgin olive oil.

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Line a bowl with aluminum foil and fill with the salad. Refrigerate for an hour to let the flavors develop and to allow to cool.

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Turn around on a plate. (An easy way to do this is to put the plate on top of the bowl first.)

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Carefully remove the bowl and the foil.

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Cover with a thin layer of mayonnaise.

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Decorate with slices of hard-boiled egg and other garnishes. Serve slightly chilled.

Wine pairing

Since I was serving the salad as part of a themed snack soirée, there had to be a wine pairing as well. I decided upon a medium-bodied semillon-chardonnay blend and that worked very well. The semillon makes the wine fat and creamy, which goes well with the mayonnaise. The wine had some fresh tones as well to go with the pickles. You could also use a 100% semillon if you can find one (usually from Australia), but those may be full-bodied and a bit too heavy.

12 thoughts on “Russian Salad

  1. I didn’t know if you were aware of this or not, but Russians themselves call it ” salad Olivier” (a nice French name, to be sure :-)). This dish (some version of it) would be part of the holiday spread in every household (any special occasion, really). Of course, no one would ever be cooking peas from scratch (everybody uses canned ones), or doing a perfect brunoise on the potatoes 🙂 My family used to make a vegetarian version, not unlike yours. Happy holidays!

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    1. Thanks for sharing a bit of your family history Natascha 🙂 I read on Wikipedia that Olivier is the name of the French restaurant in Moscow that made this dish famous in Russia. Happy Holidays!

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  2. Never have seen this before, Stefan. I don’t think I’ll ever prepare one for myself but you can be sure that if I do, I’ll come here to learn how to make on. This post ia a great tutorial.

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