Salad Olivier is one of those classic dishes that has about as many variations as a recipe for chocolate chip cookies. It was invented about 150 years ago by Russian Chef Lucien Olivier, and despite its Russian roots and the fact that it’s pretty popular here in the U.S., the first time I had it was in Amman, Jordan. When Mike and I lived in Amman, our favorite restaurant was Castle of Hospitality. We went there once a week and even though we ordered different main courses each time, we always ordered the same sides: Lebanese bread, grilled halloumi cheese, tahini salad, and Salad Olivier (which they called Russian Salad).
(Funny story about this restaurant…when Mike and I were first looking for a good restaurant in Amman he suggested Popeyes; you know, the greasy chicken chain that’s especially popular in the southern U.S. At first I thought he was joking but as I began to realize he was dead serious my laughter turned into total surprise. He was born and raised in the Middle East and fast food chain restaurants definitely don’t have the same negative connotation that they do here. Anyway, in the end I’m glad we found our wonderful Castle of Hospitality.)
So, back to Salad Olivier, which is an altogether lovely dish. In Russia it’s traditionally eaten as part of a New Year’s feast, but I think if it as an all-year salad that’s just as fantastic served at a summer barbeque. I’ve lightened it up a bit by substituting half the mayo for Greek yogurt, but sour cream would also be great here. A craving for this salad recently struck me and I decided to make it, but left out a couple of traditional ingredients – the carrot (didn’t have any in the fridge) and egg (I had eaten eggs for lunch that day and had already had my fill of them) – but I’ve included both ingredients in my recipe below so you can choose whether or not you want to add them (if you have them on hand and didn’t just eat them for lunch, I say add them, add them! The more the merrier in this salad).
Happy (almost) New Year, Dear Readers! Wishing you and yours a safe, happy, and prosperous 2011!
(Yield: 4-6 servings)
3 medium (about 6 oz each) starchy potatoes, peeled and diced
1 medium-large carrot, peeled and shredded
1/2 c peas (frozen is fine)
1/4 c Greek yogurt
1/4 c mayo
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/3 tsp dried dill (or 1 tsp fresh dill)
1/4 small red onion, minced
2-3 cornichons (tart baby pickles), minced
2 tsp capers, chopped
Salt and pepper
Boston Bibb Lettuce (optional, for serving)
2 eggs, hard-boiled and thinly sliced (for garnish)
Put peeled and diced potatoes in a medium pot and add enough cold water to cover them. Turn heat on medium-high and bring up to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and cook until fork-tender, but not mushy (about 5 minutes). Drain potatoes in a colander and cool to room temperature.
If peas are frozen, you can thaw them by letting them sit out at room temperature, or if you’re in a hurry you can put them in a colander and gently run lukewarm over them for a couple minutes, then drain them, pat dry, and use.
In a medium bowl, combine yogurt, mayo, mustard, dill, red onion, cornichons, and capers. Gently stir in the potatoes, carrot, and peas, then taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve on a bed of Boston Bibb Lettuce, topped with egg slices.