|Alternative name(s)||Russian salad|
|Place of origin||Russia|
|Main ingredient(s)||Potatoes, vegetables, eggs, ham, mayonnaise|
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (December 2011)|
Olivier salad (Russian: Салат Оливье, Russian pronunciation: [sa.lat oli.vje]) is a traditional salad dish in Russian cuisine, which is also popular in many other European countries, Iran, Israel and also in South American countries like Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. In modern recipes, it is usually made with diced boiled potatoes, vegetables, eggs, diced boiled chicken (or sometimes ham) and is dressed with mayonnaise. Worldwide, the dish is commonly referred to as Russian salad, although this term can connote with Vinegret. A cheaper variation called Stolichny salad (Russian: Салат Столичный) and also known as Moscovian salad exists, but is less popular in culture.
In Russia, Ukraine and other post-Soviet states, as well as in Russophone communities world-wide, the salad has become one of the main dishes on zakuski tables served during New Year celebrations (along with champagne).
The original version of the salad was invented in the 1860s by Belgian Lucien Olivier, the chef of the Hermitage, one of Moscow's most celebrated restaurants. Olivier's salad quickly became immensely popular with Hermitage regulars, and became the restaurant's signature dish.
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, and 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.
At the turn of the 20th century, one of Olivier's sous-chefs, Ivan Ivanov, attempted to steal the recipe. While preparing the dressing one evening in solitude, as was his custom, Olivier was suddenly called away on some emergency. Taking advantage of the opportunity, Ivanov sneaked into Olivier's private kitchen and observed his mise en place, which allowed him to make reasonable assumptions about the recipe of Olivier's famed dressing. Ivanov then left Olivier's employ and went to work as a chef for Moskva, a somewhat inferior restaurant, where he began to serve a suspiciously similar salad under the name "Capital Salad," (Russian: Столичный, "Stolichny"). It was reported by the gourmands of the time, however, that the dressing on the Stolichny salad was of a lower quality than Olivier's, meaning that it was "missing something."
Later, Ivanov sold the recipe for the salad to various publishing houses, which further contributed to its popularization. Due to the closure of the Hermitage restaurant in 1905, and the Olivier family's subsequent departure from Russia, the salad could now be referred to as "Olivier."
One of the first printed recipes for Olivier salad, by Aleksandrova, appearing in 1894, called for half a hazel grouse, two potatoes, one small cucumber (or a large cornichon), 3-4 lettuce leaves, 3 large crawfish tails, 1/4 cup cubed aspic, 1 teaspoon of capers, 3–5 olives, and 11⁄2 tablespoon Provençal dressing (mayonnaise).
As often happens with gourmet recipes which become popular, the ingredients that were rare, expensive, seasonal, or difficult to prepare were gradually replaced with cheaper and more readily available foods.
The earliest published recipe known to date appeared in the Russian magazine Наша пища (Our Food) № 6 (31 March 1894). This magazine published from 1891 to 1896, editor M. Ignatiev, stated that the original recipe contained "mogul sauce" a.k.a. "kabul sauce" (along the lines of Worcestershire sauce), manufactured by John Burgess & Son[Note 1] (the brand he reputedly used) and Crosse & Blackwell. Some later recipes substituted soy sauce for the mogul sauce.
The book Руководство к изучению основ кулинарного искусства (Guide to the Fundamentals of Culinary Arts) (1897) by P. Aleksandrova gave a recipe containing grouse, crawfish, potatoes, cucumber, lettuce, aspic, capers, olives and mayonnaise. The author wrote that veal, partridge or chicken could be substituted but that the authentic recipe contained grouse.
In post-revolutionary Russia, the following cheaper ingredients were substituted for the originals: grouse–sausage, crayfish–hard-boiled egg, cucumbers–pickled cucumbers, olives and capers–green peas.
Earlier, it always included cold meat such as ham or tongue, or fish. The mid-20th century restaurant version involved not just vegetables, but also pickled tongue, sausage, lobster meat, truffles, etc. garnished with capers, anchovy filets, etc. Some versions mold it in aspic.
In modern usage, it is usually boiled diced vegetables bound in mayonnaise, with Doktorskaya-type sausage (a genericized Soviet bologna brand that most resembles a giant uncooked hot dog). The most common alternative version, where it is replaced with boiled or smoked chicken, is called Stolichny salad, after Ivanov's version.
A multitude of other versions, named, unnamed, and even trademarked exist, but only Olivier and Stolichny salad have entered the common vernacular of post-Soviet states.
Today's popular version of "Salade Olivier" — containing boiled potatoes, dill pickles, peas, eggs, carrots, and boiled beef/chicken or bologna, dressed with mayonnaise — is a version of Ivanov's Stolichny salad, and only faintly resembles Olivier's original creation. This version was a staple of any Soviet holiday dinner, especially of a New Year dinner (to the extent that its presence was considered on a par with Soviet Champagne or tangerines), due to availability of components in winter. Even though more exotic foods are widely available in Russia now, its popularity has hardly diminished: this salad was and maybe still is the most traditional dish for the home New Year celebration for Russian people. While some of the ingredients are considered to be basic and essential (peas, pickled cucumbers, potatoes, egg, cucumbers, some sort of meat, mayonnaise or mayonnaise/sour cream mix), others are either favoured or angrily dismissed as a threat to the supposed authenticity — e.g. carrots.
Festive Russian and post-Soviet states' versions are homemade and traditionally up to the cook's whim. They are built around a base of peas, carrots, cucumbers and/or pickles, and potatoes in mayonnaise, and usually completed with a single meat, bologna-style sausage, poultry, or seafood ingredient.
In different countries
The salad is popular in Bulgaria and Serbia, where it is also called "руска салата" (ruska salata) which literally means "Russian salad," and in Greece, where it can be found on almost any restaurant's menu. The Bulgarian version of the salad usually consists of potatoes, carrots, peas, pickles and some sort of salami or ham. The Greek version usually contains no meat.
In Croatia it is typically prepared without meat, and is usually called francuska salata (French salad). Also, in Bosnia and Herzegovina both the "ruska salata" (Russian salad) and "francuska salata" (French salad) are very popular, especially during holidays.
It is also popular in Iran, where it is usually made with potatoes, eggs, gherkins, carrots, chicken, peas and mayonnaise, and is frequently had as a sandwich filler.
It is a popular salad in Pakistan as well where it is usually made with potatoes, peas, apples (and/or pineapples) and mayonnaise and is frequently used as a side dish in cafes. Another version of Russian salad is also very popular in Pakistan which bears no resemblance to Olivier salad and instead is a local cabbage and apple slaw.
It is also widely consumed in Spain (where it is called ensaladilla rusa and is present as a tapa in many bars) where it typically consists of minced boiled potato, minced boiled carrots, canned tuna, minced boiled eggs, peas, roast red pepper strips, green olives, and mayonnaise. This bears some similarity to versions of macédoine de légumes froid.
The salad is popular in Turkey as Rus Salatası. The Turkish version consists of boiled and sliced carrots and potatoes, sliced cucumber pickles, boiled peas and mayonnaise and is sometimes decorated with boiled and sliced eggs, black olives and beet root pickles. It is served as meze and is used as a filling for some sandwiches and kumpir ("Potato" in Albanian and centre and eastern dialects in Turkish).
Polish "vegetable salad" (usually simply called salatka, meaning salad) is always vegetarian, consisting of peas and the following ingredients, always cut into small cubes: potatoes, celeriac, carrots, brined dill pickles, hard boiled eggs, onions, tart apples and mayonnaise, with salt, pepper, and mustard added to enhance flavor. Recipes usually vary by region, and even by household, but never to the point of meat being added. It is always served on Polish Christian holidays such as Easter and Christmas Day (Christmas Eve dishes are very different from the food that is served on Christmas Day).
European cafes and delis often provide an entire range of Olivier-style salads, ranging from passable to gourmet. Additionally, cafeterias, convenience stores, and truck stops sell a number of sub-par factory packaged or locally made versions, mostly extremely simple, using low quality, basic ingredients flooded with an abundance of cheap mayonnaise-like dressing.
- Now owned by the Greencore Group 
- It is called "Salade Olivier" in the United States, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Iran (where it is spelled "الويه" - "olvi'e" - in Persian and "oliv'e" or "olivye" (Russian: оливье) in Russian).
- John Hicklin (1963) The Illustrated Hand-Book of North Wales: Being the 5th Ed. of Hemingway's Panorama with Revisions and Additions p.254 (advertisement)
- "К вопросу о классическом «Оливье»" (2011-02-08) Livejournal (Russian)
- ru:Оливье (салат) (Russian Wikipedia)
- Russian Salad (Olivier)
- Alan Davidson, The Oxford Companion to Food, Oxford, 1999. ISBN 0-19-211579-0.
- Anna Kushkova, "At the Center of the Table: The Rise and Fall of the Olivier Salad", Russian Studies in History 50:1:44-96 (Summer 2011) publisher's page (pay)
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