If you’re tuning in for the first time, it would probably help to know why on earth a nice Swedish-German-French-Spanish-English Jewish girl is busy trying to learn how to cook like a good Russian wife: her name is Marina and I’m marrying her only son Igor in less than a year. My first foray into Marina’s recipe box got us to Magic Mushrooms and a whole slew of great ideas from The Jewfolk for what to try next.
The mushroom adventure was pretty successful (highlights included me figuring out what the heck allspice is), so I figured it was time to move on to something even more sacred in the recipe box – Igs’ favorite salad. Marina serves it at every simcha, holiday, birthday, etc. and it would be no understatement to say that I better learn how to make this salad just the right way if I ever want to be able to properly celebrate life’s big moments with my future husband.
And since Igs in town this week and my birthday is tomorrow (see ‘life’s big moments’), there was really no better time than the present to make Olivia Salad. Or so I thought.
Maybe it’s because I’ve heard the pseudo-folktale of my dramatic naming which went something along the lines of my father hating the name Olivia Anne and my mother yelling back that she, dammit, had been in labor for X hours and would get to name whatever child came out of HER body. I was born Emily Charlotte on February 11th, 1983. They both won: no Olivia for my father but Mom still got to go very classic by naming me after the Bronte sisters. [Before I get a phone call 2 hours after this post is published, I should probably say that Mom most likely didn’t actually say ‘dammit.’ Out loud at least. She’s much too polite for that.]
Maybe it’s because my fiance is translating from Russian to Hebrew to English when he sends me his mama’s recipes and this one came over as ‘Olivie Salad.’ It was only natural for me to assume that the ‘e’ was meant to be an ‘a.’
Or maybe it’s because I had thought up a romantic backstory in my head about a dark-haired beauty and a salad named in her honor by some poor chef who would never be able to buy her the furs or Fabrege eggs that he so desperately wanted to give her.
Imagine my disappointment when I went to go find the salad’s history this week and discovered that it’s really Salad Olivier. Olivier?! How very unromantic. At least there’s some intrigue in the salad’s story (click that link!) – it almost makes up for its name. Almost.
I shouldn’t be telling you all this of course, because now you won’t really be able to be subjective when I ask you if a salad by any other name would taste as good. Would it?
Salad Olivier (Recipe courtesy of Marina Mishkin)
2 Potatoes (large), boiled until cooked but still firm, diced into small bite-sized pieces
1/2 c. Peas, canned or frozen (if frozen, thaw to room temp)
2 – 3 Eggs hard-boiled, diced
Dill pickles, quantity to taste (1/2 a small jar if making for Igor), diced
1 Chicken Breast, cooked and diced
Salt & Pepper
In a large bowl, combine potatoes, peas, pickles and chicken. Decide how much salad you’d like at the moment; put aside any of the mixture that you won’t eat right away (this can be stored in the fridge for a day or two and dressed just before serving). Dress with mayonnaise by lightly folding it into the mixture. “It [the mayo] has to cover it all, but in a good way” per Igor [I discovered this meant to not overdress the salad]. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- If kashrut is not a concern, a little creme fraiche can be added to the mayo for the dressing
- Smoked fish or cooked salmon could be substituted for the chicken (never for Igs though)
- A little green onion and chopped parsley add a nice touch of green freshness
So what do you think? Does a salad by another name taste as good?
Did you grow up on Salad Olivier? What do YOU put in it?
I first saw this when I was making a bunch of Persian dishes. I was pretty surprised when Persian Olivieh Salad turned out to be a Russian potato salad.
Dill pickles can be replaced or mixed with fresh cucumbers, if you want to reduce salt. Try finding real pickles, made with dill instead of vinegar — they will taste much better.
Cornish hens will also taste much better than regular chicken.
Thread carefully, thou art entering the Holy of Holies of soviet Jewish cuisine…
@Mr Sulman, never, never, never insult Olivier Salad by calling it a “Russian potato salad”. That is just profane!
@Jon Igs & I laughed at the Persian/Russian potato salad (although, Igs agrees with Dmitry that it’s profane to call it as such).
@Dmitry LOVE the idea of cucumber to lighten the salt and maybe make it all a little more crispy. Do you have any favorite brands that you like for pickles? We’re on the hunt now!
Agree with Dmitry: fresh cucumbers add a little fresh crunchy twist to the salad – can use them either instead of pickles or in addition to. Also, sometimes I add a Granny Smith apple.
Another thing – my Mom used to add some carrots to this salad: boil them, skin them and shred them (she was using a coarse manual shredder). The carrots’ sweetness was a good contrast to the salty pickles or sour apples, and the carrots’ bright color added to the presentation:)
@Ellie The pickles and carrots sounds really tasty too. Something to try for next time (since we all know there will be a next time!). Thanks for the tips.
The Persian origin of this salad sounds pretty odd to me.
Are potatoes and pickles common in Persian cuisine?
Also, it sounds much more plausible that a French chef dressed his new salad with (French) mayonnaise than that a Persian chef would do so.
Pickles — Milwaukee kosher dill pickles are my choice (found in any supermarket).