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Potato Salad Battle

I had a request for some Russian recipes, so I'm gonna hit you with Salad Olivier over the quiet internet weekend.

The problem with Russian Cuisine and Me is that I don't like dill and I don't like sour cream. These ingredients are prominent in like 90% of Russian dishes. So I end up altering things a lot, because I want to be able to eat it. I'll eat the cow tongue and the pickled herring and dammit, I'll even have the chicken jello if I get salt and some thick bread to put it on, but the smell of dill turns my stomach and unless it's swirled in borscht, sour cream is just foul.

All of this brings me to Olivier, which is a traditional and much beloved Russian/Ukrainian adaptation of a French dish (far more of Russian cooking is French-derived than you'd think, thanks to pre-Revolution courtly connections with France) often served at holidays. And how you feel about it depends on how you feel about potato salad in general.


Here in America, potato salad is an equally traditional dish, served in the summer for some terrible, quasi-demonic reason, since the heat renders this beast even greasier and more inedible than it started out, at picnics and the 4th of July and every barbecue ever. I have begun to suspect that potato salad is an entity unto itself, a pale, globby, tentaclular protrusion from an uncanny shadow universe. No one prepares potato salad, but if you host a barbecue and arrange your picnic tables, grill, loved ones, and beer in the right arcane positions, potato salad will simply appear, glistening white and alone, tasting of interstellar despair.

I do not like potato salad.

I have no idea if it is a thing that exists in the UK--I never came across it while living there, but then, I would hardly seek it out. Here's how you make a potato salad: get some potatoes, skin them, microwave them, chop them up, dump a jar of mayonnaise into them, and you eat that shit and you like it or you'll hurt your mother's feelings.

Salad Olivier is potato salad's inevitable Pokemon-like evolution into its next stage. Potatortle! In addition to the potato and mayonnaise, you add ham, canned peas and carrots, pickles, diced egg, and yes, dill.

I know it is beloved. I know altering the recipe in any way is basically a crime against humanity, God, and Russia. But ever since I turned it down the first time, I have thought: we have got to be able to do better than this. I am foodie, here me roar! Why would I use all these sad ingredients when I might actually be able to make this into something I can eat without shaming myself in front of the possibly-sentient potato salad?

So here's the thing. Don't serve this to your Russian family members or in-laws. You will never hear the end of how it's not "right." Call it Salad Olivrizard if you must. But for those of us who, like me, cannot handle potato salad on any level, consider this version.

Firstly, why the hell would we ever use gross, quivery store-bought mayonnaise? You make mayonnaise by mixing an egg and some olive oil at high speed. You can add anything you want to this in order to flavor it--I really like to add some rich curry paste or hot peppers and honey, but for Olivrizard, I suggest lemon garlic. Start with 1/4 cup of olive oil and one egg, add...well, I really like garlic so I'd probably add half a head, but you most likely want more like 2-4 cloves, plus the juice of a lemon and about a 1/2 teaspoon of zest--salt and pepper to taste. Whip it up in a food processor and when it's blended, drizzle in another 1/3 cup of olive oil slowly until it emulsifies. Now you have mayonnaise (aioli, really) that is not a tasteless 1970s abomination.

For the ham, substitute pancetta, for it is what bacon hopes to be when it grows up. Again I feel more is better, but chop up enough pancetta (thick chunks) to make about a cup, fry it up and put it aside on a paper towel to cool and drain. Give a piece to your cat to propitiate her, watch while she kicks it around for awhile with her huge paws before gnawing on it; laugh at her.

Get FRESH peas at the market, shell, and blanch. (Blanching means dump them into boiling water for 1 minute, remove and dunk in cold water.) Ditto with carrots. Fresh, peel, chop, and blanch.

If you want diced egg, go ahead and boil up 2 and set aside to cool. If you want to be SUPER FANCY, soak the boiled, peeled eggs in a mixture of soy sauce (2 tblsp), orange juice(1/3 cup), two tea bags of whatever tea you prefer, and cinnamon (two sticks) for 3-4 hours. You'll get deep dark brown beautiful eggs lightly flavored with tea and citrus and cinnamon and salt. I have an unfair advantage here with my chickens, because honestly, fresh chicken eggs are kind of unbeatable in that they possess actual chicken flavor. But not everyone has an ornery pack of hens out back.

Now, for pickles, I make my own. I do not suggest that this is necessary. In fact, the pickle part is kind of unnecessary, even in the classic dish, where it's optional. If you want to make malosolne ogurski, though, which means not-much-salt pickles, go ahead and slice up some pickling cukes, boil 1.5 liters of water with 2.5 tablespoons of salt and once the brine is cooled, pour it into glass jars containing cucumbers, 2 crushed cloves of garlic, a teaspoon of mustard seeds, 1/2 teaspoon of fresh horseradish, a sprig of cilantro (or dill or parsley if you hate cilantro), a sprig of thyme, and a couple of white peppercorns. Seal and wait 3 days. Then you have amazing crisp pickles with a totally unique taste, as there's no vinegar in this recipe.

Once you have all these ready, peel and boil about 2 pounds of potatoes, dice them into little cubes once cool--make sure all ingredients are cool or things will curdle and half cook and get gross really fast--and mix everything together in a big bowl along with a whole medium diced red onion. Add salt and black pepper as you will.

This is what happened with me and borscht, too. I figured I could awesome it up some--and my borscht is famous in my social group, but my in-laws assure me it's not "really" borscht. So if you're willing to suffer the shame of it not "really" being Olivier, you can join me in defeating the gelatinous potato salad incursion into our universe with the blinding light of justice, pork, and garlic.

74 Comments

1:

We certainly have potato salad in the UK. Although even in most of it's cheap incarnations from supermarkets it's fancier than just mayo and diced spuds. Sometimes it even has dill in it!

You have to try a bit harder to find curried or similar potato salads, but garlic is pretty common even without finding a deli.

2:

Microwaving potatoes? Anyone would reach for garlic -- and probably cross for good measure -- and run the other way on seeing that.

But not liking dill and sour cream... they're two of my basic food groups!

3:

Why on earth would anyone measure large (as in, larger than a grain of sugar) dry ingredients like pancetta by volume?

We have a system of weights for a reason, and that reason is that measuring large particulates by volume never gives the same amount twice, leading to inaccuracy and imbalanced flavours.

4:

This recipe sounds interesting. I've realized recently that although I like American-style mayo-based potato salads, but I really love a good German Potato Salad with its vinegar-based dressing.

5:

Sorry, Stew, I am just not trained in that method and I don't think that way. Also, I'm the kind of cook that just measures "a whole lot" and calls it a day.

6:

In the US, unless you are a professional baker or a devoted amateur baker, you cook by volume instead of weight.

All of our cookbooks are written that way, even breads and cakes (cups of flour, etc.). It's a cultural thing. So much so that if you are a devoted amateur baker, you have to search for the more accurate weight-based recipes.

7:

Microwave potatoes? Well that sounds like a recipe for disaster. Unlike this, which just sounds delicious.

8:

Heck, I even see potato salad served as a pan chang in Korean restaurants around here. It's interesting, seeing it next to the kimchi and the bean sprouts. I think it's there for the soldiers, or something.

9:

Wow, recipes in Charlie's blog. Well, that's refreshing.

As for the Olivier… Sorry for butting in, but ham? Carrots? Why?

That's not to say that I'm trying to dissuade anyone from culinary experiments, no, far from that, but after several decades of cooking Olivier and eating Olivier (it's a very traditional New Year food here in Russia) I can wholeheartedly say that there's an *easier* and vegetarian-friendly method to grasp that particular Russian taste.

So, in equal proportions:
— boiled potatoes; boil them in skin until soft (probe with a fork), cool then peel;
— canned peas — but yes you may parboil fresh ones if you want;
— hard-boiled eggs, preferably free-range;
— salted cucumbers (definitely NOT marinated — if you can't lay your hands on salted cucumbers, well, get some herbs — dill is good, garlic too — boil and salt some water (it should taste like seawater), cover cucumbers and herbs in steaming hot salty water and leave for a day. Easy. Just don't try that with marinated ones, they ruin the taste).

The rest is easy. Cut everything into pea-sized cubes, place in a bowl, mix, leave for a day in a fridge (so that everything would blend together with salty cucumbers), add mayonnaise (or aioli) before serving, salt to taste. Personally I don't bother with homemade mayonnaise, I usually get a bottle of Japanese mayo off an Asian store here in Moscow — yes a bit unconventional, but it's very light and tastes great.

This is really basic and nice. You could add other ingredients but they are kind of superfluous. Treat any Russian to this recipe and you'll hear “it's definitely Olivier”.

10:

I reserve mayonnaise for chips (ie "French fry" type things if you are American, but bigger and fatter).

11:

I love a good potato salad. It is very easy to do a bad potato salad. I have unfortunately eaten both.

I love good dills. There are a lot of bad dills out there. There are millions of tons of them. Some large stores do not even carry good dills.

I love sour cream when it is placed on the right dishes. Too many cooks place it on the wrong dishes.

12:

The recipe sounds delicious. One comment, though -- unless you can get your peas at a farmer's market, on the day they were picked, and use them that day (or maybe the next), you may as well buy frozen peas. They go from sweet to starch so quickly that frozen is typically more "fresh" (the texture won't be right, but the taste will be much closer).

13:

Here's another vote for German potato salad. No mayo means much tastier.

14:

I'd rather have a mayo- than a sour cream-based potato salad. Just a personal preference. I'm going to find and make a Salad Olivier because that sounds yummy. I'll have to make a 'small' version (I'm the only one who will eat it in my household) but it will give me an idea of proportions and etc. that make it good.

There are LOTS of versions of potato salad in the U.S. I don't want to start citing the ones I know about because I know there are many, many versions. A glance at a local grocery include: mustard-based, mayo and egg based and various other kinds.

I'm not picky. So they're all good.

15:

OK, spuds in the US come in waxy & mealy version with Yukon golds as in-betweens. Most US salads use mayo so a mealy type like a Russet is called for. The German types with a mostly vinegar dressing tend to do better with a waxy Red. And really YMMV.

When it comes to making aioli I tend to use lighter tasting oils like safflower as olive even in the lightest extra virgins cloy.

Glad to see foodie talk here and am enjoying your posts.

tony
retired chef & general bum

16:

#occupy gross foods!

I have to say, a flyover state, middle-America childhood left me with a deep, abiding hatred of any food that contains mayo. I just can't eat it. even if you mix in ginger and call it aioli.

For sandwiches, pesto frequently works as a substitute. (Why, yes, I do live in California, why do you ask?) And it might displease the trans-dimensional horrors and/or Grandma, but I think it could work in potato(e) salad, too.

I don't hate dill, but I don't seek it out, either. Sour cream used to weird me out, but getting in to Hungarian cooking got me over that. I do hate pickles, but I think this is left over from said background in the north east, where pickles were things that seemingly crawled out of factories to nestle into fast food sandwiches as part of a conspiracy to contaminate everything with dispair and yuck, thus to better break the spirit of the Working Man and Woman. I love most other pickled things, aside from cukes, and so I might have to try making some and see. Sour Kraut is one of my most favorite things on the planet, and I need to get a good pot to start making some.

17:

Personal opinion- don't peel the potatoes. Adds texture, and probably some of that nutrition stuff. But mainly, adds texture and flavor, much to the improvement of the final product.

18:

"Not really borscht"?
Aren't there nearly as many variations of it as there are potato salad? I generally like any kind (potato salad or borscht) so long as it's meatless, and the potatoes shouldn't be overcooked mush. Sour cream has its place, on latkes for one, but the potato salads I've had made with it tend to be kind of dry.

Meanwhile, Charlie has been keeping us very entertained at COSine, with some juicy hints into "The Apocolypse Codex", which I'm not going to spoil. Judging from overheard conversations, he has some new readers. Not really my place to say more, so I'll leave it to him, if he finds the time.

19:

Our local organic market makes a divine blue cheese and bacon potato salad. While our local Korean market sells an excellent potato salad w/ peas apples and cucumber.

20:

The US preference for volume measurement is a throwback to our frontier days supposedly. Much easier to pack measuring cups than a scale on a covered wagon.

21:

I guess no one here would like my quick So. Cal. sandwich: wheat bread, medium/sharp cheddar, mayo (sorry), and kimchi. This especially works if the kimchi is old and sour, because it cuts the mayo.

Oh well.

22:

We do indeed have potato salad in the UK. It mostly lurks in the buffet at family 'do's' behind the salt and vinegar chip-stix (why, yes, I live in the North) and the cold, plain once-frozen chicken drumsticks. It will often deploy a cohort of baked-dry sausage rolls to induce a need for something slightly moister than the Gobi to counter the dessication from the razor sharp fragmentation pastry-bomb ... I've lost count of the times the sausage rolls have tried to kill me.

23:

US cooking is revolting, mainly because it is almost impossible to get FRESH vegetables.

As for "sour" cream, again, the quality of the ingredient(s) is very important.
I suspect that, having tried several types here, you are only getting mass-produced muck - no wonder you don't like it.
The VARIETY of spud you use is also important.
For potato salad you REALLY MUST use a waxy, hard-ish variety, that won't go floury when par-boiled, nor mash well.
La Ratte is perfect, others include Charlotte, Fir Apple, "Jersey Royal" (a.k.a.International Kidney) .
Par-boil for 10-12mins, then add to mix.
SHOULD NOT be "greasy" - which indicates something wrong with cream/oil types or quantities involved.
I regularly make "Indian spiced spuds" for instance ...

Par-boil as above, whilst frying (grapeseed or rice oil, NOT canola - eeeuwwww!) small qtys of chili, cumin, lots of fresh-chopped garlic, small slice of ginger.
Add postatoes, and also pre-choppee washed spinach leaves (or the perpetual Komatasuna Japanses spinach) to the mix.
Salt and turmeric, watm through until spinach comppletly wilted and
Serve!

I have an unfair advantage, of course.
All the veg will be home grown off my allotment, and sub-continent spices are fresh(ish) and readily available anywhere in London.

24:

As a person of Russian descent (technically Ukrainian but you know, assimilation and all that) I would like to shake my head firmly at whoever told you olivier has a "right" formula. Olivier is the Chop Suey of real Russian cuisine (and by that I mean, food prepared by your grandmother using shop-a-docket purchases) (or if you want to go full Old Country, using whatever produce the store had not run out of by the time you hit the front of the queue). My recipe for olivier goes like this:

1. Rifle through your fridge.
2. DICE EVERYTHINNNNNG.
3. Add mayo.

(What I'm trying to say is, your Received Olivier is Terribly Bourgeois :P)

(I misspelled bourgeois and Firefox's first suggestion was "gibbous". LOVECRAFT IS INFESTING EVERYTHING)

Furthermore, each family normally has their "own" "traditional" version. The one my dad makes is potato (boiled, not microwaved, urgh), egg, pickles, onion, apples and either chicken, ham or seafood sticks, depending on what was cheaper at Aldi today. One time he used spam, it was pretty horrifying. Sometimes we leave out the apples if they're not handy. We've never used dill, either.

Anyway, some of your ingredients sound pretty delish so I'll make a note to try them. I've definitely been planning to try my hand at making my own mayo! I've occasionally bought little jars from market stalls and it is THOROUGHLY AMAZING how much better it tastes than the supermarket version.

25:

Recipes going by volume or 'it looks like the correct amount' often work perfectly fine as long as you know what you are aiming for.

A bigger problem can be the difference in products between countries. Commercial mayonnaise in the Netherlands compared to the same in the USA or UK is a world of difference. Mustard comes in many local variations, pickles will have different consistencies.

The 'Olivier' recipe is reminiscent of the Dutch huzarensalad. In its most basic incarnation this is potatoes, apple, (leftover) stewed beef, and mayonnaise based dressing. But many as many variations exist as people; ham, pickled gherkins, pickled unions, peas, egg, carrots are common additions or replacements.

We also have our variations on the potato salad, but usually with chives or parsley not dill.

26:

Penny has just dropped, thanks to Rhona.
What you are discussing is NOT POTATO SALAD, it is what is usually called "Russian Salad" in the UK and Dominons .....

Potato salad contains spuds, butter, oil chives, garlic, salt - & comes in two main variations:
Cold contains cream/mayonnaise in the mix.
Hot contains vinagrette (oil+vinegar+mustard).

Oh and Aöli conssts ONLY of eggs, oil, garlic & salt - proper mayonnaise+garlic in other words.

27:

Depends on where you are in the US and what kind of city and community you have around you. Some US cities and town aren't interested in vegetables, others thrive on them. There are thousands of refrigerated trucks running North 24 hours a day from California and Florida, bringing FRESH vegetables (and fruits) to those groceries which cater to the millions who actually want really fresh vegetables.

More importantly for my case those trucks run up all the way North across the border and into Canada, giving me FRESH vegetables every day during our long winter. As you might guess I do not live in southern BC, the only part of Canada which can actually grow vegetables and even a bit of fruit (in the Okanagan valley) most of the year.

So, not only is it possible to get FRESH vegetables in the US (or at least some parts of it) but they even grow so much of them, and keep such a big transport infrastructure dedicated to their fast delivery, that they export them to us, over the border, night and day, without ever stopping.

28:

Alain - interesting ...
But, we've touched on this semi-foodie subject before, and it is apparent that in large parts of the US, reasonably fresh veg are a rarity, and that you are a fortunate exception.
One amusing thing, of course is that Portland Maine, is a lat:43 39, about the same as the Mediterranean coast of France, yet our growing season in London (approx 52 N) is longer than that in Portland .....
I think ocean circulation might have something to do with that, though.

29:

People assuming all of the US is a food wasteland miss the point. Urban California (where I live) has excellent, cheap produce of nearly any sort shipped the day it was picked, fresh fish, oranges to die for (4lb./dollar, half a block from my home), good beef that is well handled, although that is slightly more expensive.

NYC, of course, is the sushi capital of the country. And you pay for immediate delivery. But if you get up early and go to the fish market, you, too can have the experience of buying food that is still alive. Personally, I find it more honest. But then, I also killed chickens to eat them growing up. Which leads me to...

Middle America restaurant food does suck. But the space available enables those who want to to grow their own food. A couple of hours a week of labor means you can just go pick tomatoes, basil, various squashi, cukes, whatever, depening on the biome. What you do with it matters, of course, but it doesn't get fresher than that.

30:

"People assuming all of the US is a food wasteland miss the point."

The times I have been to the USA I have put on weight. The food is better than in the UK IMHO, there's more of it and its cheaper. Tell me where in the UK I can eat a huge and extremely tasty Mexican meal, with all the coke I want, for under £5

31:

Interesting topic!

Some foods shouldn't be microwaved based on a Wiki article -- see excerpt below:

"Microwave ovens do convert vitamin B12 from the active to inactive form, making approximately 30-40% of the B12 contained in foods unusable by mammals.[25] A single study indicated that microwaving broccoli loses 74% or more of phenolic compounds (97% of flavonoids), while boiling loses 66% of flavonoids, and high-pressure boiling loses 47%,[26] though the study has been contradicted by other studies.[27] To minimize phenolic losses in potatoes, microwaving should be done at 500W.[28]"

Another search showed that microwaving peppers can result in very serious injury - as in requiring hospitalization - due to capsaicin activation/release. [See Chemistry (dot)about (dot) com --- The 'Do Not Microwave' list.]

On the other hand, bacon benefits from being microwaved because microwaving (compared to frying) does not produce as much nitrosamine, a known carcinogen. (There are many different types of nitrosamines and most fall into the unhealthy category.)

Re: Mayo

There are mayos and there are mayo wanna-be's, i.e., Kraft Miracle Whip. I 'cut' mayo with sour cream or plain Balkan/Greek yogurt when I need moisture (e.g., potato salad) but don't want a heavy/greasy flavor.

Re: Dill

Love dill but learned quite painfully that dill increases the potency of garlic. (Not sure why.) Since then, have become cautious using dill with fresh onions, leeks, shallots in case it interacts with the sulfur compounds in these vegetables. If this is so, then dill combined with garlic/onion could be a serious problem for anyone on blood thinners including certain pain/fever reducers.

32:

Greg:

The problem with sweeping generalizations is... well, it's obvious, right?

Have you lived in the U.S.? I mean, really lived here, maybe in a few different places? It seems clear to me that you haven't, or only lived near and shopped at a Piggly-Wiggly or something. (If you don't know what that is-- it's a low-rent grocery store).

We buy only organic foods and also buy a membership annually in a local farm that provides boxes of fresh vegetables 10 1/2 months here in Atlanta, Georgia U.S. We also can find our fresh organic produce in a number of different stores; it's not special or unusual.

It IS, however, a choice. It's true there's a lot of crap out there. And a lot of people choose to buy and consume it, because it's cheap. Most of that crap is actually fast food, though there's other gross processed crap out there, too. (Great documentary about the food industry is Food, Inc.; if you haven't seen it, it's worth checking out).

33:

...and if we're talking about restaurant food, I'm sorry, London is very good (like most big cities), especially with the subcontinental varieties, but in any big city in the U.S., due to our immigrant culture and populations, you can find excellent and genuine Asian (Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, etc.), Italian, Mexican (and there just isn't a decent Mexican place in London, at least not the last time I was there--salsa tastes like marinara sauce... bleagh), etc. etc. food. You can even find real-deal British cuisine, should you want it.

Just my two cents on that score as well.

Re: potato salad... I guess I prefer the mustard-based varieties the best--I have fond memories of picnics with baked beans and potato salad all kind of running together--but it's not really my favorite food, so I don't usually fix it, and, thus, have no mind-blowing recipe to share.

34:

tattie salad: boiled new potatoes, skins on left a while to cool; home-made mayo; chopped spring onions; salt & pepper ... simple

the BBC recipe for Russian Salad is here
http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/7025/easy-russian-salad

35:

I would actually argue that there is no good Mexican food in NYC. I lived there for eight years, and couldn't get a good burrito.

And just to bring the conversation back around to speculative fiction, I'm not the only one who thinks so.

36:

US cooking is revolting, mainly because it is almost impossible to get FRESH vegetables.

Ohhhhhhhh, riiiiight! Ahem, here in CA we get excellent fresh vegetables. You can get them fresh picked at a farm stall and even fresher from the garden. Garden grown heirloom tomato varieties blow away any store bought ones for flavor.

I don't believe CA is unique in the US in this regard.

37:

Potato salad is much nicer if you make it with little or no mayonnaise - Greek yoghurt, mustard and maybe a dash of mayo if you really want it produces a much nicer sauce for it.

38:

As a guy from Latvia (lots of Russian influence) that can not imagine a New Year celebration without this salad, I can only agree with people saying that there is really no 'right way'. Despite loving dill (especially with fried or boiled potatoes) I've never seen it used in Olivier in Latvia. While most people do use just mayo, in my family we prefer half mayo and half sour cream. I however have not really seen the same sour cream outside ex-USSR territory. The sour cream here is fully emulsified, it usually flows just a bit faster than fresh honey, it is barely sweet and fat (i.e. there is no sour taste at all). It fact it should be almost tasteless. The key here is that it is supposed to soften the mayo.

39:

On the subject of how people perceive herbs, I have been struck at how polarized people are to cilantro. I love fresh cilantro. Other family members can barely stand the smell of it, let alone eat it as a condiment.

As was noted up thread, sour cream has to be used with the right recipe. I regularly use it in a Beef Stroganoff recipe. I've tried substituting heavy cream as an experiment, but there is no question that sour cream works best.

40:

London may be very good, but it is also very expensive compared to the USA.

41:

My experience is mainly Mid West

42:

What drmaciver said. Put yogurt on your potato salad instead of or alongside the mayonaisse. Also as someone else said, use waxy varieties of potato, ideally small new potatoes, rather than the big maincrop roasting/mashing kinds. Boil them in the presence of salt and garlic. More garlic than you would think. Drain, allow to cool, cut ino pieces about 2 cm across, mix with finely chopped spring (green) onions. Add yogurt, mayo, olive oil to taste. And you have a lovely potato salad. Easy, and very British.

43:

How do they respond if you call it Coriander or Chinese Parsley?

I was going to mention Stroganoff; I make a nice vegetarian version, with sliced portobello mushrooms, works very well. Not sure you could make a decent vegan version.

44:

Local versions of potato salad vary across the USA. In the parts of the South I grew up in, potato salad is similar to:

chunks of potato
chopped egg
finely diced pickles
enough mustard to coat the solids

"Institional" potato salad mostly consists of: (sample recipe)

1 gallon mayo
1 pound chopped celery
1 pound raw onion
1 teaspoon instant dried potato flakes


45:

This is my great-grandmother's potato salad recipe, via my mom, who lightened it up a bit (less oil, no mayonnaise):

Add per 1 cup of potato cubes: 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/2 T. tarragon vinegar, and 1/2 T. olive oil. Grate over 1/2 onion. Add celery seed, hard-boiled eggs, sliced (about 6 for a large bowl).

My great-grandmother used red new potatoes, peeled. My dad and I prefer yukon golds, skin on. Note that with the olive oil, vinegar and egg, it contains the same ingredients as mayonnaise, just deconstructed. Anyway, I am very partial to this recipe. The tarragon and celery seed and onion give it a nice flavor. It brings up the memories of growing up in a household with multiple generations of traditional but very good cooks.

46:

Well... Jaime, I was being generous. I'm originally from Dallas, TX, so I have pretty high standards myself for (Tex)Mex food. But there are some decent places here in Atlanta (family-run). Just not as many.

47:

Japanese potato salad splits the difference; their mayonnaise is made with apple cider vinegar in it.

48:

It's the taste, not the name.

49:

Yes, but if they think it's something else, would they react the same? Kind of like someone liking a wine more because they've been told it was expensive, therefore 'good'.

50:

Mexicans didn't show up in NYC in large numbers until the mid to late 80's. Thus a dearth of good Mexican restaurants before that period. It have some decent Cuban-Chinese ones though.

51:

If you can't make mayonnaise or are going to serve this outside at a picnic, you can dress your salad with a proper oil, red wine vinegar, shallots, Dijon mustard (see David Lebovitz' recipe) vinaigrette.

And for those who do like sour cream, here in Estonia we mix the mayo half & half with the soured cream.

52:

Yes, but many readers of this blog are based in Europe.

53:

Can we please distinguish between English/European & US usage here?
"Potato Salad" contains potatoes and herbs and a "solvent" - butter / mayo / oil combination
"Russian Salad" which is what Ms Valente is talking about contians SOME potatoes, but lots of other small-diced or sliced/julienned crisoy veg as well as a "solvent" - usually proper mayonnaise.
Carrot/celery/peas/pickled small cucurbits etc and a very different herb/spice mix usually.

54:

I think, I will try your recipe here in Russia :-P

55:

#35 - Comment from an actual Mexican, on trying a burrito "yes, that's very nice but what is it?" Most "Mexican" food in the USa is actually Tex-Mex.

#43 - I suspect that a Vegan Strogonoff is impossible, due to the lack of a Vegan substitute for the soured cream. As you say, an ova-lactarian version is just a question of replacing the meat with more decent quality "dark" mushrooms.

56:

In response to the the UK vs US good food debate, I think we can paraphrase Mr W Gibson:

Good food is here, it's just not evenly distributed.

57:

Paws4thot - I absolutely agree. I live in San Francisco, and some of the local taquerias are, in my opinion, just as good as places I've been to in Mexico. But yes, most "Mexican" food in the US is, ah, not very Mexican. In particular, most of the rust belt is deathly afraid of spices that are not (pre-ground) black pepper, and the notion of a pepper with a capsicum payload is the devil's work.

Yes, I'm overstating things. But not by much. (As before, middle-America is foodie-friendly, but only on a cook-for-yourself basis. The restaurants... well, there are decent ones here and there.)

58:

Now I get it. Finally. For years here in Spain, I've been confronted with what's known as 'Ensaladilla rusa'. And thanks to my mild aversion to tuna (getting over it), mayonnaise (also not as averse to it as I once was), and my unabiding hatred of boiled eggs, I avoided the famous 'ensaladilla' of supposed Russian extraction for a long time...until I got a nice new mother in law.

But if you're wondering, what they call here 'ensaladilla rusa' is generally boiled potatoes with mayo, tuna, diced pickles, and boiled egg. On sale at practically any of the millions and millions of bars, saloons, taverns etc in Spain.

So thanks for solving the mystery of this dish's etymology--a Spanish misinterpretation of this Salad Olivier, or so I take it. I am forever in your debt.
Cheers.

59:

Further to Para #1, I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with Tex-Mex as a concept; I'm just saying that it's a different thing from Mexican food.

60:

Response to Dan:
The restaurant Wahaca is excellent and affordable
The takeaway chain Pinto is also great

Many recipes of Potato and Russian salad, if you're a foodie you will create your own masterpiece!

61:

I have tuna on my pizza

62:

Cilantro is one of those love it or hate it herbs.

One of my friends had just the smallest taste of cilantro and ran out of a restaurant, vomiting pretty violently. We didn't know the cause until we asked for details of the recipe: a bit of cilantro that the waiter forgot to mention.

The Wiki entry suggests reaction to cilantro may have a genetic basis: "The leaves have a different taste from the seeds, with citrus overtones. Many experience an unpleasant "soapy" taste or a rank smell and avoid the leaves.[7] The flavours have also been compared to those of the stink bug, and similar chemical groups are involved (aldehydes). There appears to be a genetic component to the detection of "soapy" versus "herby" tastes.[8] Belief that aversion is genetically determined may arise from the known genetic variation in taste perception of the synthetic chemical phenylthiocarbamide; however, no specific link has been established between coriander and a bitter taste perception gene.[citation needed]"

63:

I forgot to mention that I like Cilantro. I also forgot about the possible genetic reasons for some people's dislike, those people would certainly be able to tell it's there.

As for my wine comparison, I've had some that we're pronounced good by someone, and didn't like them--usually too tannic for my taste. But then, I grew up on Manischewitz.

In other words: what I said about cilantro? Never mind.

64:

The secret to good Mexican food in the US? Go to the areas where the inhabitants are first generation immigrants or second generation descendants, where the culture's still sticking.

Haven't been in a few years, but there's a locals-mostly place on Soquel Ave in Santa Cruz that has a menu in spanish and whose staff speak only halting english... Food's Bueno (and I'll stop there, as my spanish is horrible, despite my family having had a house down there in the 80s and 90s).

Next up - regional variations within Mexico (there are 7 or 8 or 9 distinct regions food-wise, depending on how you count it)... Though the ninth is Baja and they're more of a mishmash of mainland nearby plus tourist plus US food influences than a distinct region on its own.

65:

The only Manischewitz wine I ever had tasted like fruit juice. I get that it was more acceptable for the kids on Seder night. But ugh.

The good news on wine is that it seems that even the cheapest is very drinkable. It blows me away that "Two Buck Chuck" is not only cheap, but quite acceptable as "vin de table" and I think much better than the table wine I had as a child (which was an awfully long time ago).

66:

Yep, fruit juice with zip. There are many acceptable kosher wines now, though I'm no judge and only have them once a year.

Myself @63 that we're pronounced
I probably ought to turn off the iPad's autocorrect.

67:

I was born and raised- and currently live- in the South Eastern US. If you asked the majority of people around here they'd tell you we invented BBQ (not quite true). And since BBQ is part of the arcane process for summoning whatever crud you shove down your gullet, I'd like to weigh in on Potato Salad.

Ours is heavily mustard-centric- though it does have mayo, the two appear in varying amounts depending primarily on personal taste/family recipe. Most potato salads have onion (white/red) and bell pepper (green/red/both) in them- in my experience. And I believe waxy Reds are the order of the day.

As for "Fresh" veg (and food, in general) I refer you to Alton Brown's comments on the matter (at Go0gle, IIRC). To paraphrase: I'm surrounded by farms, where they grow cotton, peaches, pecans, and soybeans. Not all of us live within an 8-hr ride to fresh produce. Frozen- when done properly, and kept frozen- is actually equal to "fresh" in most parts of the country.

68:

I can't comment on Manischewitz, but I like a full-bodied red, and occasionally find one that's too tannic for me (or possibly just under-aged; tannins soften with age, and some Barolo that I initially found too tannic improved immensly (sp) on being ignored in my wine cellar for 8 years or so).

69:

You're quite right, there are so many kinds of borscht. I think where I went wrong was Cooking It While Not Russian. ;)

70:

Greg--

I know everyone else has already had their say on this, but come on. The US is shitty in many ways, but fresh food is not one of them. Even with a laughable growing season, I can get amazing fresh food in Maine--and in the winter the root vegetables are fantastic. When I lived in Scotland I gained all kinds of weight, veggies and fruit were so expensive compared to the chip shop. Buying grapes was a big splurge.

As I've mentioned, many of us here in Maine grow and preserve our own produce, and I can drive 20 minutes to a farm where my knees buckle from the deliciousness of the food. Midwestern US cooking can be pretty gross, as I've pointed out, but this is a HUGE country with many regional cuisines, and the summer barbecue here in Maine is lobster, corn, and roasted onions smoked on a cairn of seaweed.

You just come visit and I'll blow your mind with US produce.

71:

And of course it will never be "like Mom's".

72:

And yet I live in Scotland, and my nearest chippie is 25 miles away: OTOH my nearest greengrocer is more like 200 feet from my back door to its front.

73:

I'm coming in late, but I feel I need to chip in to point out that in the North of Germany, potato salad is made with mayonnaise.

I tend to add about 1/3 natural yoghurt to cut the fat content. Other indispensable ingredients: a splash of lemon juice, parsley, chives & onion (or spring onion), a touch of Dijon mustard,white pepper, chopped hard-boiled egg and gherkin. Thinly sliced Frankfurters lift it up a notch ;)

74:

Hmm. I think I'll try a little lemon juice next time I make some potato salad. It may be interesting when adjacent to yellow mustard...

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