Mr. Olivier came to prominence in the Hermitage restaurant in Moscow, where he created his namesake salad in the 1860's with much more luxurious ingredients, such as beef's tongue and aspic and even crayfish tails. Since then the salad has been humbled and has spread across to many other regions, where it's served in Mexico, Spain, Greece, and even Turkey. This salad enjoyed a place of prominence at all my Russian family's parties. It was such a staple in our household that I suppose I took it for granted, even as I regularly helped myself to seconds and thirds. Perhaps because I have it less often now, I've gained an appreciation for it. The crunchy, salty flavors punctuate the smooth, rich bites. This also has a lot less mayonnaise than one might expect from a "Russian salad," that's because I like mayonnaise, but I don't like my food swimming in it. - Naked Beet
Test Kitchen Notes
I have to admit I was a little skeptical when I set about making this potato salad (thinking, "canned peas? really?"), but the results put my skepticism to rest. It's a great option when you want something that has the elements of a traditional creamy American-style potato salad, but with some subtle twists. The sweetness of the peas and carrots melt with the creamy potatoes, and the salty bursts of ham and pickle perk the salad up beautifully. - fiveandspice —The Editors
10+ picnic people
yellow potatoes, cut into large chunks
very large carrots, peeled
hard boiled eggs, chopped (1 of the yolks reserved)
small kosher dill pickles*
naturally smoked ham (ideally without nitrates), cubed**
small red onion, diced
Hellman's lowfat mayonnaise
white wine vinegar
(15~ oz.) can sweet peas, drained (2 tbsp reserved)***
kosher salt, add more to taste
In This Recipe
In large pot of salted cold water, boil all the potatoes, carrots, and eggs. Take the carrots and eggs out as they become ready. The eggs should approximately 12 minutes and the carrots and potatoes will be ready when a fork pierces through them easily.
Shell the eggs and peel off the skin off of the potatoes, if you haven't done so already, and let them cool slightly.
Into a very large bowl, cut your potatoes into irregular shape, but uniform sized small pieces (about 1/2"). Cut your carrots and pickles into 1/4" pieces. Add in your pickles, cubed ham, diced red onions, and add in the chopped eggs and 2 of the yolks. Mix the salad gently. While you may want to cheat and make larger pieces of everything, the reason for making the pieces all small is so that in every bite you will have a little bit of all the flavors.
Add in the mayonnaise, vinegar, and salt and mix gently. At the very end, add in the drained sweet peas, stirring carefully as to not mush them up. Taste the level of salt and adjust if necessary. (The salt will help bring the flavors out, so don't worry if you think you're adding more than you normally might.)
Decorate the top of the salad with the reserved chopped egg yolk and the rest of the peas. This salad is best served between the temperature of "tooth cold" and warm. You don't want this sitting out in hot hot weather for too long. If it does, pop it in the fridge for 5 minutes and serve it again.
Notes: *I've also made substitutions with canned black olives or capers instead of pickles, but do not include all three in one salad as to keep the level of salt in check. **If you don't have smoked ham on hand, I've used smoked turkey, bologna, or even cut up pieces of hot dog. If you happen to live in the NYC area or have an inclination to come into Astoria, go to Muncan, where they smoke their own meats and sausages without any fake preservatives. They're the closest thing you can come to your own personal smokehouse without storing sausages in your friend's garage. ***Don't be tempted to use frozen peas, as the texture of frozen, while fresher and notably better in most other things, would lend a completely different tone to this salad where most of the rest of the ingredients might be considered "marinated." It would be like adding a jewel tone color to a salad of earthy hippie colors; it's just wrong. You don't want a fresh crisp pea in here, it wouldn't meld with the other ingredients. The crisp elements are onions and pickles alone and steamed or boiled peas would bring a waxy and watery texture.