My husband and personal chef (Henri) is giving me a “Thank God the Book Is Done Dinner” to thank several of the book’s characters and many of the contributors to our research. So, a Russian menu of zakuski (appetizers) and vodka is in order. Whereas at our Russian friends' homes, this would be just the beginning with a multitude of dishes to follow, at our home, this was it. Chef Henri relied on A Taste of Russia: A Cookbook of Russian Hospitality by Darra Goldstein (Harper Perennial 1991). Had we received Anya Von Bremzen’s new memoir in time, Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing (Crown 2013), we might have used her recipes as well.
Vera and I were skyping when Harry proudly announced the first item on his menu to Vera - Russian Salad (Stolichnyi Salat, or Salat Oliv’ye). According to Darra and Anya (I consider myself on a first name basis with all food writers), the creator of this salad was Olivier, a French chef who dazzled Moscow society with this elegant dish in the 1860s. Anya informs us that originally it was served deconstructed-style with grouse, tongue, crayfish tails and the potatoes on the side. It was eventually “vulgarized” or “reconstructed” Soviet style by mixing all the ingredients together. This dish, which Anya refers to as the “sina qua non of Socialist celebrations” is most commonly made with chicken. Below you’ll find Darra’s recipe.
My friend, Vera had quite a few ukazi (orders) above and beyond Darra and Anya’s instructions. First of all, use white onion, not green onion. You must put boiling water over the fine onion and then dry it when it is cold so that you remove the bitterness. Green peas must come from a can because they have a different taste. Add chopped kosher dill pickles. You can’t use oranges or apples because they simply weren’t available. You never add eggs to a vinaigrette. And forget using any capers even though this recipe doesn’t call for them because they weren’t available. Also for a vegetarian variation, it’s okay to substitute portobello mushrooms for meat because they taste similar to Russian white mushrooms. Harry didn’t get to the second recipe with Vera because time didn’t permit. This doesn’t even address the issue of having kosher, gluten-free, lactose-free and vegetarian diets all within our family. What is genuine? Should we bring back the grouse, tongue and crayfish tails? Good luck, and my advice is to cook without advice unless you have a lot of time.
Prepare the night before…
½ pound cooked chicken
3 hard-boiled egg yolks
3 hard-boiled egg yolks
2 Tbls. white wine vinegar
2 Tbls. olive oil
Cut into bite size pieces
2 pounds boiling potatoes
1 large carrot, scraped
¾ c. freshly shelled peas
salt, ground pepper, 1 orange
2 tart apples, cored but not peeled
2 whole scallions
lots of minced fresh parsley or dill
½ c. mayonnaise
½ c. sour cream
salt, freshly ground white pepper
¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup sour cream
1 Tbls. olive oil
1 Tbls. white wine vinegar
- Boil the potatoes in salted water until just tender. Drain and peel. Cut into chunks.
- In separate pot, boil carrot until just tender. Cut into rounds.
- Boil the peas in salted water for 5 min. and drain or use canned peas. (We think Vera's right).
- Peel the orange, remove white parts. Cut into 1 inch chunks.
- Chop the apples and scallions
- Mix together with chicken.
Dressing (feel free to improvise)
- Press egg yolks through sieve (or processor). Harry skipped this step. The thought process is you’re making a mayonnaise.
- Mix with 2 Tbls. olive oil until paste.
- Stir in vinegar and ½ cup mayo and sour cream (optional). Season.
- Pour dressing over the warm vegetables. Toss. Turn salad into clean bowl and chill overnight.
- To serve, form the salad in a high mound, Mix the remaining ingredients: mayo, sour cream, oil and vinegar and pour over mound so it cascades over sides.
- Garnish with carrot rounds, dill and parsley.