Russian Salad, also known as Olivier, is a staple salad in many families in Russia. It will become your new favorite potato salad.
Russian potato salad
Today I’m going to give you a recipe inspired by a very famous Russian salad. Technically, it’s known as the Olivier Salad and there’s a variation within Russia called Stolichny Salad. But it’s so tied to the land of its birth that, in many countries, it’s known simply as Russian Salad.
What is Russian Salad
Long ago in Moscow of the 1860s, a gourmet chef by the name of Lucien Olivier invented a new salad. So popular did this new salad become that it grew into the signature dish of the famed restaurant where Olivier worked as chef. One of the sous-chefs that worked for Olivier absconded with a lesser version of the recipe in a great bit of culinary espionage. That version eventually sold to cookbook publishers and, over the decades, many of the more expensive ingredients were replaced until it became the salad served every New Year in many European homes.
You see, for many years, Russia celebrated Novy God, or the New Year, as a sort of Communism friendly, secular holiday around the same time as Christmas. There’s even a Novy God fir tree to replace the Christmas Tree. As you can imagine, this holiday became a staple of family celebrations even as Christmas has in America. Now that Communism has fallen, the holiday is still celebrated in many post Soviet countries.
And Russian émigrés exported it as well! This is especially true in Israel where many Israelis are second or third generation children of Russian immigrants. It’s a nice, traditionally holiday substitution since the Jewish New Year is officially celebrated by Israel.
This salad is a favorite dish on zakuski tables (a sort of hors d'oeuvres buffet) during the Novy God celebration dinner. But it’s also spread all across Europe and is a choice treat found on tables at all times of year and in all kinds of locales.
My version is, honestly, fairly dissimilar to the original created over two hundred years ago. But just like every American household has its own version of macaroni and cheese, pretty much everyone has created their own recipe for Olivier Salad. So I’m in great company!
My two biggest changes are in the meat and the binding sauce. Many more traditional versions of the salad use smoked ham, chicken, or bologna.
As always, I enjoy hearing about your attempts and successes with my recipe. The comments section is always open to any questions or concerns as well as anecdotes. Also feel free to share your own variations on this famous salad that you’ve discovered. Or, better yet, your variations on my own variation. That kind of evolution and drift across time and place is one of the most fun parts of cooking. I love watching it in action.
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Enjoy the recipe!