Saturday, September 26, 2009

Salat Olivie, or Russian Potato Salad

Sorry for the radio silence, it's been a tough couple of days around here. The Pit got sick, and this necessitated me making chicken soup by the bucketful. That man sure loves his soup. Of course, he was feeling mostly better as of yesterday, and while the liquid portion of the soup was devoured to the last drop, I had some left-over boiled chicken that I needed to use up.

In any self-respecting Russian household (or even mine), one of the first thoughts when you have left-over chicken is to make Salat Olivie (or Salade Olivier, according to Wikipedia*). For the non-Russian speakers in the audience, Olivie is the Russian version of potato salad. As the Russians love their protein along with their potatoes, the salad typically includes a hefty portion of left-over meat and hard boiled eggs.

However, since I can't stand eggs in any recognizable form, the versions made in my mother's and grandmother's houses were always egg-free, and that is the recipe I'm going to share with you today. If you love eggs and want to add a diced hard boiled egg to the mix, be my guest.

What you'll need for 4-6 side-dish size portions:
  • 2 large potatoes, boiled and diced
  • 2 carrots, boiled and diced
  • 1-2 cups cooked chicken, diced**
  • 4-6 dill pickles, diced
  • 1/2 small white onion, diced
  • 1 can peas, drained
  • 2-3 heaping tablespoons mayo
  • several dashes of salt

1) Boil the potatoes and carrots in lightly salted water. The traditional method is to boil the veggies with skins on, and then to let them cool slightly and peel. I used to ignore this advice and peel everything first, but after doing a taste comparison, I realized that potatoes boiled in their own skins really did taste significantly better. However, I couldn't really detect a huge difference in the taste of the carrots, and those are horribly to difficult to peel when cooked, so I usually peel the carrots but not the potatoes. That does mean you can't cut the potatoes into quarters to speed cooking time, so if you're in a rush just peel everything, quarter, and toss in the pot. Remember that the carrots will be cooked before the potatoes regardless, and pull those out earlier.

2) While the potatoes and carrots are cooking, dice the chicken (if it's boiled, this actually ends up more like shredding), pickles, and onion, and mix them with the drained peas in a large bowl.

Note: I almost always use left-over boiled chicken from chicken soup for this dish, but there's no reason you can't use roasted, grilled, or even canned chicken. In fact, you don't need to use chicken at all...I'm super picky, so I like the chicken, but I've been to other Russian households where this recipe is made with ham, bologna, or sausage. You can also modify the amounts of the meat, pickles, onion, and peas for your particular tastes. As an example, we love pickles, so I always add extra, but The Pit hates canned peas, so when he's watching me make this, I only use about half a can. I'm also not a big fan of raw onion, so I either leave it out altogether, or only use a tiny amount.

3) When the potatoes and carrots are done, dice them and add to the bowl.

4) Mix in two tablespoons of mayo, and give it a taste. I usually add another tablespoon and a sprinkling of salt at this point, but it might not be necessary for everyone.

* I didn't expect to learn a huge amount of salad history from this wiki page, and was pleasantly surprised...somebody did a good job there.
** You can also use other types of meat, or leave it out altogether for a vegetarian version.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my god. Worst idea ever to look at this while fasting. Well, second worst idea. Actually fasting is clearly much worse. If god made cream cheese, and cream cheese is delicious, then why would god not want us to consume cream cheese on his holiest of days?

    (And yes. Fasting! Figured I'd give it a go. Because I am clearly not sufficiently miserable.)