War and Peace Menu
After an epic journey have reached the epilogue of this epic novel and, in anticipation of finishing, am starting to plan to an epic feast to celebrate. Some pescaterians some omnivores in attendance. On top of Russian food thinking it will be fun to mix in some thematics from book. ie, Napoleons. Perhaps a number of small dishes to express epic-ness of novel. Know very little about Russian food -- so if you have an obscure specialty please explain.
Thoughts so far (but open to suggestions):
- Caviar (feel like I've earned it) -- poss with baby potatos and sour cream
- Some form of big sturgeon if I can track one down.
- potatos with mushrooms
- honeyed walnuts on yogurt
Don't have anything for greens yet...
For greens, how about a raw version of the good old Macedonian Salad (no, its not Russian, but it is colourful and good and you don't see it so much anymore).
Refreshed Macedonian Salad:
So instead of cooking the ___ out of diced carrots, corn-fresh-off-the-cob and fresh peas from the pod (and diced potato and lima beans, too, if you want to got that far) just merely boil and blanch. While still luke-warm toss in mayo diluted with lemon juice and dill and chill.
Or you could just toss chilled beets with sour cream or creme fraice and dill and serve on butter lettuce leaves.
A salad that is popular in that part of the world around this time of year (my husband is from Romania) is tomato-cucumber salad. My mother-in-law just makes it with sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, a generous splash of vinegar (a cider or wine vinegar), sunflower oil (a staple in Eastern Europe) and some salt and pepper. I found a recipe on a Russian recipe site that is a slight variation of this with sour cream and dill.
Also, smoked fish is huge in Eastern Europe as well. There are so many kinds sold in the markets, along with all different types of caviar and roe. They make this spread out of carp roe that is amazing. It's basically sunflower oil drizzled into a bowl of carp roe that has been mixed with a piece of white bread soaked in seltzer water and then squeezed. You use a hand blender while you drizzle in the oil to whip it all together into a sort of fluffy, light mayonaisse type spread. Stir in a drizzle of lemon juice at the end. I've never been able to replicate this outside of Romania, so I buy a Greek jarred version that is remarkably similar called Taramosalata. In Romania it's called Salata de icre. I'm pretty sure there is something similar in Russian cooking as we bought a jar of it at a local Russian market. It was sweet though, like it had sugar in it. We didn't like it as much.
A classic Russian salad:
Chicken breast roasted and diced
Potato boiled and diced
Egg boiled and diced
One pickle diced
Quarter small onion diced
Red radishes say 7-8 sliced
Small can of peas drained
All bound together with mayonnaise
Even Queen Elizabeth serves this, only they call it Royal Russian Salad ( and uses ham not chicken).
And if your guests are especially brave there is black radish salad: (quite smelly)
Drain a can of canneloni beans and mush
Add some diced onion
Add some sliced fresh cukes
Peel some black radish and shred on large grater holes
Add salt, olive oil and mix
If black radish unavailable use daikon.
This is peasant food, not War and Peace Russian royalty food.
Russian princes ate French food in that period and only spoke French as Russian was considered the language of the lower classes.
I would make pelmeni for a starter...dumpings filled with meat. I packed away my russian cookbook or else Id share a recipe. Ive always had them topped with sour cream. Golubtsy would be delicious :) Maybe a beet salad with pickled cucumbers, garlic and mayonaise? Cabbage should definately be on your menu. My teacher was from Moscow and said she ate cabbage everyday. And my BF says they put sour cream on everything :) Try this maybe: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Traditio...
Thank you -- I love some of these suggestions! Quite taken by the idea that all you need to do is pour a quart of sour cream (or mayo) on any veg or salad to make it Russian. Pirozhki & Kulebiaka are serious contenders. Intrigued also by black radish -- although not sure if I'll be able to find. Also on the hunt for a samovar -- as it would be a perfect finish to the meal.
re: bite bite
Indeed a large portion of the first chapter of the novel is originally in French. The new Pevear and Volokhonsky translation is the first English version to keep it this way. In older translations, where everything, or most everything, was translated into English, one loses the irony that the Russian aristocrats are complaining about Napoleonic imperialism, while they have willingly adopted the French language and many aspects of French culture.
Pirozhki are always popular. By profession, I teach Polish and Russian literature, and at our department parties at my last teaching post, the pirozhki were always the first things to go.
If you want to go Russian aristocratic, think of the menu of the old Russian Tea Room--chicken Kiev and such, and elaborate presentation. You can get chicken Kiev, for instance, from any number of Russian and Ukrainian delis around Coney Island, but at the Russian Tea Room, it would be hermetically breaded with one bone extending as a kind of a handle, and the waiter would insert a knife into the chicken, releasing a pool of butter that would fill the plate.
I once had occasion to attend a reception at the Russian Embassy in Washington D.C. during the Putin years for the anniversary of an American institute of Russian studies, and the most striking thing about the buffet was the elaborate garde manger work, carvings, and garnishing. The main course was roast turkey, I think to honor the American guests, and it was so impeccably carved that no one touched it for about twenty minutes or so, because it did not appear to be sliced, as it in fact was.
Oh, and you have to go to the opera and then have your dinner at midnight. I marveled at this small detail of the book. It seemed so glamorous to me when I read the book at age 14.
Good show on finishing the book! I'm still not done watching the 1967 Bondarchuk film (then again, it's 403 minutes long and spans 5 DVDs)... I *did* make it through Prokofiev's opera version at the Met two seasons ago (4hrs 15mins); actually, it was quite spectacular and engrossing even if none of the extras flew off the tipped revolving stage into the pit, as happened in 2002 (!)
Anyway, on to some menu suggestions:
* A nice zakuski (appetizer) spread, including de rigeur favorites such as herring (pickled or sauced in sour cream, dill or mustard), smoked fish and meats (including tongue!), pashtet (Russian liver pate), zhul'yen (mushrooms baked in sour cream & cheese, en cocotte), vegetable "caviars" (eggplant, beet or mushroom) and composed salads with beets or potatoes (stolichny/oliv'ye, bagration or vinegret). Accompany with sliced black bread, vodka and sweet champagne.
* Some classic Russian soups in addition to borshch & shchi include ukha (clear fish), rassol'nik (kidney and dill pickle), solyianka (spicy soup, in both meat and fish versions, with pickles, olives, capers and lemon) and bagration (with quenelles, barley, spinach, asparagus and cream).
* By all means pirozhki, or a large pirog. In the more extravagant pastry-encased realm, a salmon kulebyaka, or a kurnik (Russian chicken pie).
* Fruit sauces are also classically Russian: chicken with gooseberry sauce, sturgeon with cherry sauce or veal stew with cherries.
* For dessert, charlotte malakoff, guriev kasha or a Russian "Napoleon Torte" (thin cake layers with alternating vanilla custard and condensed milk fillings, and a shaggy coating of soft golden cake crumbs).
We did this last summer, read the book and had a feast. We enjoyed both immensely. For the feast we served Bagration Soup (beef soup with veal quenelles), mushrooms in cream sauce, pelmeni, and drank French wine. (There was a salad of some sort too, and a dessert involving cherries, but my memory of those has faded.)
I will say, though: don't bother making Bagration Soup. For all of the work, steps, and ingredients involved, it wasn't actually that interesting.
Congrats and have a great time!
What a fun idea! Definitely to get into the true spirit of War and Peace the meal would have to be ancien regime French cooking, rather than authentic Russian. Fortunately, many of these classic dishes were named after Russian aristocrats. There is Veal Orloff and Pheasant Souvarov. These two would probably take more effort to prepare than reading War and Peace did. Beef Stroganoff and Chicken Kiev would be less demanding.
Part of the fun would be in describing the history of these dishes. For dessert there is strawberries Romanov, or better still, a Charlotte Russe (invented by the famous 18-19th century chef Antoine Careme in honor of Czar Alexander I). If you're serving iced vodka with the caviar definitely freeze it in a block of ice for dramatic presentation. Simply fill a large plastic container with water, put the vodka bottle in and freeze it. Cut off the plastic container, and if you have an artistic bent you can make carvings in the ice.
A coulibiac, the famous salmon encased in brioche or puffed pastry, is also a good choice, and is authentically Russian. It was immortalized by the French chef Escoffier, who prepared it at Monte Carlo for the ballet russe.
If you live in NYC (and we dont' know it you do) you can stock up on herring and sturgeon at Russ and Daughters on Houston, and Payard Pastry has really good napoleons. Also napoleons at Venierro's but not as good.