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Russian Potato Salad Olivier (aka Olivye) – Recipe and Cooking Secrets

I have known all my life this dish as Russian potato salad Olivier and I will try to present the recipe and cooking secrets in this article. But the dish is traditional in many East European countries (not only in Russia) and is also known under other names: “Russian meat salad”, “stolichny”, “Olivier / Olivye”, “salade de boeuf” or “salata de boeuf”. It’s extremely popular in Romania also, to the point where some recipes present it (incorrectly 😃) as a “Romanian dish”.

No, despite the French names and the Romanian popularity, the concoction is neither French, nor Romanian in origin. It was invented by a French chef (Belgian, actually) named Olivier who worked in Russia sometimes around the 1860s. Wikipedia has a full article on this: Olivier salad but here I will present it as I learned to make it from my mother and my grandmother.

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Olivye salad needs very little cooking, few ingredients, none of them expensive or difficult to find, and can be prepared very fast. It’s also delicious and can be served on its own or as a side dish at a family barbecue, for example – it’s certainly far superior to a simple corn on the cob.

And the best thing? Nothing can go wrong! Boil the stuff, cut, add mayo, salt and pepper to taste and that is all!

As many other East European dishes it’s not intended to be fat free or low calories but it’s also not loaded with fat. The Russian potato salad Olivier in my opinion is a balanced dish that any person can have. In moderation, of course.

If you use clean ingredients – not loaded with pesticides, antibiotics and hormones – I doubt it’s more fattening than a bagel with cream cheese, for the same weight. Certainly less than a stack of pancakes loaded with corn syrup!

Ingredients for the Russian meat salad

Lean meat, cooked (pork white meat, chicken or turkey breast, lean beef)1 pound (450g)
Boiled Potatoes3-4  large (~1kg or 2.2 lb raw, before boiling)
Pickled cucumbers (Dill Pickles)small 1 – 2 cups, large 3-4 pieces; to taste
Onions (sweet, uncooked)1 medium; to taste
Hard Boiled Eggs5
Canned Sweet Peas 1 can (15oz, 400-430ml)
Mayonnaise (regular or light)4 – 5 tablespoons; to taste
Salt, pepperTo taste

Variations:

Add: 

  • Olives (to taste, pitted or not, green or black, cut or not cut)

Substitute:

  • Olive oil mayonnaise (beware: it changes the smell and taste, it’s an acquired taste)
  • Green onions (replace part of the fresh sweet onion)
  • Carrots (boiled,cubed); add or replace part of one potato; the more you add, the sweeter the salad will be.

In my earlier life I used to MAKE the mayonnaise myself, from two egg yolks, sunflower oil (I never like canola, and olive oil gives it a funny taste) and spices (lemon juice, mustard if needed, salt). But recently I find that a small amount of commercially available mayonnaise is as tasty as the home made, even if perhaps not as healthy, so for the rare occasions when I use mayonnaise, I usually use ready-made mayo.

I strongly advise using organic products wherever possible.

Note: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. This means I will receive a commission if you order a product through one of my links. I only recommend products I believe in and use myself. 

Now I am going to change the subject a little and tell you about the crystal bowl I am using for my salad. So, I am used to serving the Russian potato salad Olivier in this nice crystal bowl and my friends always ask where I got this bowl. Well, it was a gift from my mother in law (like 20 years ago) but I found this kind of bowls on Amazon

They are very durable and much nicer than regular plastic salad bowls, perfect for entertaining at home, and can be a stylish gift to a friend or loved one. I put them in my dishwasher without any problem. 

If you would like to take a look at the 3 nicest crystal bowls follow this link to Amazon.

How to Cook Meat for the Olivier Salad

The meat for the salad has to be fully cooked to the point where it comes apart easily in your hand or with a fork. In all cases the meat needs to be soft.

There are three different ways of cooking the meat:

  1. Boil the meat when you prepare another dish. I prepare for example a chicken stew, and I boil the whole chicken for the stew, then I extract part (or all) of the breast for the salad. This is the traditional way of making the salad, before the era of fast food and readily available delivery, when all food was cooked at home (and tasted great!), it was not unusual to prepare two or three dishes at the same time.
  2. Sometimes I buy a whole rotisserie chicken and that is excellent while fresh; cold, not so much, sometimes the leftover breast meat is as tasty as old leather. Solution? Meat salad! This also works wonders for leftover turkey from Thanksgiving or Christmas, in case there is anything left.
  3. Boil the meat separately for the salad. I usually do this when I have pork or beef meat, and I use as little water as possible in this case, having a concentrated sauce adds to the flavor of the meat.

How long do we boil the meat? Depends on the meat, its initial temperature, the size of the piece.

As a general rule, I never boil meat from frozen, I always defrost it slowly in the fridge first. Usually, if I am cooking tomorrow, I make sure to take the meat from the freezer by 6pm the day before, and leave it in the fridge overnight. If the next day it’s still frozen, I may put it in a plastic bag (ziploc, sealed) and immerse it in room temperature water. The meat will defrost better than in the microwave.

Of course if you are in a hurry, you can always use the microwave but I generally avoid doing this,in fact, I don’t remember doing it for years already.

For chicken breast, taken from the fridge (cold, but not frozen) the cooking time will be between 20 and 40 minutes, depending on the size.

Turkey may take a little more but given that you will certainly not use the whole turkey breast (remember, you only need 1 pound, 450g) the cooking time will be pretty much similar with a similar sized chicken breast.

For pork and beef, again, depending on the size of the piece, it may take anywhere between 40 minutes to 1 ½ hours. But remember that we have the meat boiling in a pot, it’s not difficult to test the tenderness and estimate when it’s boiled. The meat however has to be fully cooked to the center.

Can you cook the meat in a pressure cooker? Definitely. How long? The cooking time greatly depends on the size of the piece of meat, the larger the size, the longer it takes. It may take as long as 1h for a large piece of meat in a pressure cooker, or as little as 20 minutes if you already have cut strips or smaller cubes.

How to Cook Vegetables for the Stolichny Salad (Russian Salad)

Now that we had a long story about boiling the meat, you expect one as long for the vegetables? Sorry to disappoint. The only thing you need to cook is the potatoes, and they need to be cooked between 20 and 30 minutes, depending on the size. Test with a fork once, after 20 minutes.

How to cut the ingredients for the Russian Potato Salad

For this salad the ingredients need to be cubed, with the exception of the eggs which sometimes I simply shred. How do we cut cubes (the easy way), and how large each cube?

The answer to both questions is simple: use whatever method you wish, and make the cubes as large as you want. The potatoes I usually cut in slightly larger chunks, the onion and pickles I cut the same size as chickpeas.

But of course there are no strict rules here!

How to Make Olivye Potato Salad

Olivier salad recipe step by step

Boil the ingredients

Allow the ingredients to cool down

Peel and cut vegetables

Peel and cut the eggs

Cut the meat

Cut the onion

Cut the pickles

Add the mayo and mix

Add the peas; final mix

Salt to taste, add pepper to taste

Beautify it

What do we mean by “beautify”? Place the salad on a flat plate, shape it as a dome then put a thin layer of mayonnaise on top. Place on the mayonnaise pieces of olives or red peppers to make a nice design on it. I didn’t have the time to do that, but looks nice, does it not? In this case the “designer” used pieces of olives, carrots and green parsley leaves for decoration.

Image from https://www.romaniaexperience.com

Useful tips for Making Russian Potato Salad Olivier

  1. Never over boil the vegetables. If overboiled they might disintegrate when mixes and we don’t want mashed potatoes, we want them cubed.
  2. Meat must be skinless, without bones, fat or tendons.
  3. It’s ok if you allow the ingredients to cool down just enough to be comfortable to touch to work with them, but when adjusting for taste allow the salad to fully cool down because warm food tastes feel differently when tested for salt.
  4. When peeling eggs, if they are freshly boiled, after boiling immerse them immediately in cold water. That will make them easier to peel in my experience.
  5. If I am in a hurry I don’t cut the eggs; I simply grate them with the grater (larger size). They will not be easily recognizable in the mix but on the other hand the eggs have the tendency to break anyway, so in the end there is no big difference.
  6. When adding the peas, I always do the following:
  • Wash them in a strainer to get rid of the salt and any preservatives that are in the can
  • Dry them for a short time on a plate or another strainer where you have put a napkin or paper towel. That will absorb the extra moisture still in the peas. Water that is still retained in the peas may leak when placed in the fridge and your salad may suddenly have some liquid at the bottom – not nice
  • Add the peas last because they are delicate and break easily; we don’t want mashed peas!
  1. When tasting, make sure you take a full spoonful of salad; just a little on a tip of the spoon will not do, you may not get the right mixture of vegetables and you may taste mostly the mayonnaise.
  2. When you cut the pickles, while I don’t recommend you dry them, same as the peas: make sure there is not much liquid in them. Cut, then squeeze out the liquid left behind. Yes more pickle juice might give it a better taste, but will also make for a soggy salad the next day. Better squeeze the juice and add more pickles, if you want more sour.


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How long does Russian meat salad last

It’s so tasty that it usually finishes quickly. However the salad, stored in the fridge, will easily last one or two days. I’m in principle against storing (and eating) things that have been in the fridge a longer time, even if they might still be good to eat. In my home, it usually lasts one day 😃

Can this Russian potato salad be kept in the fridge

Yes, of course it can. I actually like it better the next day, when the ingredients absorb some of the taste from the mayo and pickle juice.

Can I freeze Russian salad Olivier

Can it be frozen? Definitely not. Actually, it CAN be frozen, but after that the only thing it’s good for is to feed the trash can. Everything will become mushy, liquid will leak when unfrozen – it might taste the same, but it certainly will not look appetizing.

Can you feed Russian potato salad to your pets

Here the answer is an emphatic NO. The salad has onion, and that is bad, bad, bad for both your cat or your dog. Oh yes, they might want it, beg for it, cry for it – stay strong, you would not want to do them harm, would you? Keep a doggy or kitty treat handy, but no salad for them!

How many calories are in a Russian salad Olivye

It largely depends on the type of meat you use, but the differences are not great since the meat is not the main ingredient for the salad. The general agreement is that there are less than 200 calories in a serving of salad of about 150g (5.3oz). This is an example: Calories in Russian Salad and Nutrition Facts.

You will ask: ok, but how BIG is this serving? I can show you how much I ate yesterday morning, that was a serving for me: 82 grams, or 2.8oz. So my serving was about 100 calories. Of course, my husband complained “I am not a bird” when I showed him the serving, and he quickly doubled it!

You might need to clean the kitchen after you are done with all the pilling and cutting. I usually drop a lot of stuff on the floor. Not that I am not careful, I try not to drop anything on the floor. But stuff always falls from my grater (when I grate eggs for the salad) etc. and I like to use a small cordless vacuum cleaner after I am done cooking. 

Check the recent price, read reviews for these 5 cordless vacuum cleaners on Amazon, and see if they are on sale.

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Russian potato salad Olivier

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