Russian Salad à la Olya
Submitted by Olya Hart
This salad is probably one of the best-known Russian dishes. A lengthy Wikipedia article Olivier salad provides a lot of information about the history and regional versions of this popular recipe. (We tasted a pretty adequate variation in Buenos Aires). This salad is a MUST at a holiday table, be it New Year’s Eve or a birthday party, probably because it provides a lot of calories needed when you start your meal with vodka toasts. If you are lucky to have leftovers, the next day is a real treat, because this somewhat time-consuming dish is waiting for you in the fridge and it tastes even better than the day before because the flavors had more time to blend.
Not only does this recipe have a lot of regional versions, but every household has its preferred variety. Mine, for example, is a blend of my Moms’ recipe (which also included boiled carrots which added a touch of sweetness) and my Aunt’s recipe, in which she substituted crabmeat for more traditional beef or ham.
- 2 cans of whole potatoes, well drained (for a large company use 4 cans)
- 1 package of leg-style imitation crabsticks* (for a large company use 2 packages)
- Half a jar of pickles** (you can add more, but the salad may get too salty)
- 3 hard-boiled eggs (for a large company use 4 eggs)
- 1 Granny Smith Apple, peeled and cored
- 1 can of sweet peas, preferably small/petite, well drained
- Approx. half of a 30-oz jar of Hellman’s Real Mayonnaise***
- Chop all ingredients into small dice. The smaller the pieces, the better the flavors will blend. (Tip: use an egg slicer in two or even three directions to dice potatoes and eggs).
- Add mayonnaise, about 3 tablespoons at a time, and fold. Keep adding and folding until the ingredients are uniformly coated. The goal is to dress the salad generously, but not to drown the ingredients in mayonnaise.
- Taste and adjust seasoning. Thanks to the pickles and mayonnaise, it should be salty enough, but add some salt if needed. Freshly ground black pepper adds a nice finish.
- Allow time to let the flavors blend. Ideally, make it the night before and refrigerate. Get from the refrigerator about an hour before serving and let sit at room temperature.
- Crabmeat is great, but more expensive.
- If you are allergic to fish and seafood or just want to experiment with different proteins, try the following:roast beef, quality ham, or cooked chicken. A meatless version is fine too.
- Preferred brands: Claussen or Boar’s Head, preferable wholes
- (those will be smaller and have tiny seeds)
- ***This is closest to the Russian mayonnaise, but thicker. The flavor is important though!
- Arrange in a bowl making a mound.
- Optional: garnish with whimsically sliced ingredients.
- Since this is a special-occasion dish, it typically accompanies champagne toasts. It is equally great as a vodka chaser.