You will find Russian Salad or Ensaladilla Rusa (in Spanish) in every tapas bar around Spain yet as the name suggests it, this dish was invented in Russia by a chef of French and Belgian descent, Lucien Olivier.
Chef Olivier made French cuisine popular in Russia during the 19th century when the Czar and Russian aristocracy was very fond of the French culture, art, literature and of course cuisine. In 1864, Lucien Olivier opened the legendary restaurant Hermitage in Moscow which became the hottest restaurant in town. Tchaikovsky celebrated his wedding at the Hermitage, Chekhov died at the Hermitage, Dostoyevsky, Gorky had celebrations there too. Chef Olivier created the "Olivier salad" ("Ensaladilla Rusa" in Spanish), a mix of vegetables, eggs and tuna in a rich mayonnaise sauce served cold as a starter. In 1917, the restaurant permanently closed due to the Russian revolution.
Serving: 2 persons
Preparation time: 30 minutes
1 boiled carrot (keep it firm, "al dente")
2 to 3 medium size potatoes (keep it firm, "al dente")
2 boiled eggs
1 roasted red pepper (from a jar or a fresh one baked in the oven or grilled)
1 can of tuna in oil or water
1 cup of boiled green peas
4 table spoons of mayonnaise
Step 1 - Boiling your vegetables and eggs
Boil your potatoes (skin on)
Boil your carrot (peeled)
Boil your green peas
Boil your eggs (10 to 11 minutes)
Don't overcook your vegetables, there needs to be a bit of a bite to them. Pass them under cold water to stop the cooking and chill your vegetables.
Step 2 - Dice and mix your ingredients
Remove the skin from your boiled potatoes and dice them into small cubes
Dice your carrot into small cubes, the same size as your potatoes
Save one boiled egg yolk for decoration, chop the rest of your eggs
In a salad bowl, mix:
Vegetables (potato cubes, carrot cubes and your peas)
Chopped boiled eggs
Salt (couple of generous pinches)
Black pepper (same as salt)
3 table spoons of mayonnaise
Your salad is now ready!
Because of the mayonnaise, you must be careful not to keep the salad in the room temperature for too long. You can refrigerate your salad mix for at least 30 minutes before plating and serving it.
Step 3 - Plating your Ensaladilla Rusa
This is like being 4 years old and making sand cakes on the beach.
On a serving plate / dish:
Take your salad and mayonnaise mix and build a little mountain on your serving dish
With a large spoon, shape the salad to the shape you want
Cover the salad with a small layer of mayonnaise
With a cheese grater, grate the boiled egg yolk on top of the salad
Place a few green olives and a few thin slices of your red pepper over the grated egg yolk
It is very nice to eat this salad with something crunchy such as toasted or fried bread. Spaniards would traditionally eat Ensaladilla Rusa with dry short bread sticks called "picos".
Enjoy, bon appétit!