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Jan 8, 2011 07:41 PM

How do you make Salad Olivier (aka Russian salad, ensalada rusa)?

One of the most common salads in Guatemala is ensalada rusa, a mixture of diced potatoes, carrots, peas and mayo. It is served regularly in homes, restaurants and the most humble street stand. It is to Guatemala as potato salad is to the US ... only more so.

I'm addicted to it.

It is said to be invented by Lucien Olivier, chef at the Hermitage Restaurant, in 1860. It became wildly popular in Spain. From what I can see, it is popular througout Latin America.

I've had Salad Olivier in SF at Russian delis. I wasn't too impressed. They put too much stuff in it. But the simpler, Gautemalan version ... love it.

Oddly enough, none of my half dozen Guatemalan cookbooks have the recipe, so I was looking for it online when I read the wiki article about all the variations thruought the world. Wiki writes of the original

"The exact recipe — particularly that of the dressing — was a jealously guarded secret, but it is known that the salad contained grouse, veal tongue, caviar, lettuce, crayfish tails, capers, smoked duck, although it is possible that the recipe was varied seasonally.

The original Olivier dressing was a type of mayonnaise, made with French wine vinegar, mustard, and Provençal olive oil; its exact recipe, however, remains unknown."

Kind of interesting to read all the intrigue that went behind this with a sous chef trying to steal and recreate the recipe.

The real Russian version has a sausage similar to hot dogs which is why I may not have liked it. Then again it might just be that Russian food in general, for the most part, is lousy in the Bay Area.

Anyway it is interesting to read the link about the different versions in Bugaria, Spain, Greece, etc. It is called American salad in Turkey because of the tiff with Russia. Anybody remember when French fries were called freedom fries when the US was put out with France?

This translated version of Spanish wiki talks about the Latin American version. Surprisingly it is a pretty decent translation

Spanish wiki states "In Colombia usually be served with sausage, donuts, cheese, ham, turkey, peaches and grapes, among others."

Donuts? I thought that was a bad translation, but looking at the original Spanish it is indeed served with buenuelos. In Peru they add beets. There are many other Latin country variations.

So .. do you make Russian salad? How?

Anyone have Olivier's original recipe ... especially the dressing?

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  1. I discovered ensaladilla rusa in Spain. The version I make is the one I had in Madrid at a friend's house. It consisted of potatoes, mayo, carrots, peas, tuna, garnished with quartered eggs around the perimeter and topped with white asparagus and langostinos.

    1 Reply
    1. re: BigSal

      I like the seafood addition to this. I'll pass that along. We have a fairly big event coming up and one of the ladies was looking for an ensalada rusa recipe that was a little different.

    2. Ensaladilla Rusa (Russian Salad)
      SPAIN, by Cornelia Rosales de Molino
      (Serves 4 to 6)

      Note: Use only very fresh eggs from a source you trust. Raw eggs may carry the salmonella bacteria that causes food poisoning.

      3 cups waxy new potatoes
      2 cups green beans
      salt, freshly ground black pepper
      2 cups carrots
      1 cup garden peas, freshly shelled or frozen
      4 Tablespoons sherry vinegar
      3 egg yolks
      1 Tablespoon lemon juice
      1 cup olive oil

      Wash the potatoes. Place in a pan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Cook until tender but still firm.

      Meanwhile, trim and wash the green beans. Bring a pan of salted water to a boil, add the beans and cook for about 10 minutes. Peel and finely dice the carrots, put them together with the fresh peas in another pan of boiling salted water and cook for about 5 minutes (if using frozen peas, add them 1 to 2 minutes before end of cooking time.)

      Drain all three vegetables, rinse in cold water, drain again thoroughly, and place in a mixing bowl.

      Peel the potatoes and dice them into 1/4 inch cubes. Add to the rest of the vegetables. Season the mixture with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with the sherry vinegar.

      In another bowl combine the egg yolks with the lemon juice, salt and pepper. Whisking vigorously, add the olive oil very gradually, to make a creamy mayonnaise. Mix the dressing into the vegetables and refrigerate about 30 minutes.

        here's smitten kitchen's mom-in-laws recipe. Looks good, I'm going to have to make this now!

        1 Reply
        1. re: chef chicklet

          Alas, I have yet to find a dill pickle in Guatemala ... no bread and butter pickles either. Only gherkins for some unknown reason. Maybe that will work.

          I did like the part about why we are afraid to cook. Half those reasons are mine. I broke it out in a separate post

          Cooking phobias - why we are afraid to cook

        2. This Italian or Italian-American take on Russian salad was on TV quite recently:

          1. I've been experimenting with this lately. it's one of the most abused dishes in the world! Russians today make it with bologna ...

            The dressing I recently made for it was pretty good, like this:
            1 egg and 1 egg yolk
            1 1/8 cup canola oil

            beat the eggs in a food processor or mixer until frothy, and add the oil in a steady stream, until you have a nice mayo. Then -

            melt 4 anchovy fillets in about 1 tblsp olive oil and let cool. Add to the mayo 2 tblsp champagne or rice vinegar (mild white vinegar), 1 tblsp powdered yellow mustard, dash of lemon juice, 1/8 tsp fresh ground white pepper, 1/4 tsp grated horseradish, and the anchovy mixture (the anchovies replace any salt you'd normally put in). You can change any of this to taste or course. I've made the mayo with high quality olive oil before and there really isn't much of a taste difference, but olive oil makes for a very runny mayo. I find canola oil makes a clean tasting, neutral mayonnaise.

            In the salad I had: carrot, potato, parsnip, baby peas, cubed boiled brisket, crayfish tails, capers, chopped leek (soaked in vinegar), dill, chives, brine pickles, pickled carrots, and eggs.

            It was delicious!

            1 Reply
            1. re: bywatertim

              ooh I bet brisket would make it really nice - I may try that in my version, instead of chicken.