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Russian New Year’s Eve: Salade Olivier

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olivierSalade Olivier a/k/a Russian salad a/k/a ensalada russa has a fascinating history.  It began as a dish invented by a Russo-Belgian chef , Lucien Olivier, for his upscale restaurant in Moscow in the mid-1800’s.  The story goes, one of Olivier’s commis simplified the original recipe for another restaurant where he obtained a better job (or stole and bastardized it, depending on who you ask), and the new, rapidly evolving version became increasingly popular among restaurant chefs and a staple of tavern menus.  The salad assumed the form familiar to us today — a macedoine of potatoes, bologna (or boiled beef), pickles, eggs, onion and carrots, bound in mayonnaise — sometime in the 1920’s.

Don’t tell me you hate mayonnaise, dear reader; this salad has conquered the globe, it’s that good. Virtually every European country has its own version of the Russian salad, plus Mongolia, plus parts of Latin America, plus parts of the Middle East (and not just Israel).  Definitely give it a try.

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Russian New Year’s Eve

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snovymgodomThe New Year’s Eve is the most important holiday in Russian culture.  Introduced along with other reforms by Peter the Great in the 17th century (he also mandated Christmas trees, which we call “New Year’s firs”), meant to secularize and westernize Russian society, this celebration came to rival all others even before the Soviets essentially outlawed Christmas.  The meal served on New Year’s Eve, or rather, over the course of the entire night, is the most festive of the year.  (In fact, in Russian we call it New Year’s Night, because who the hell goes to bed at midnight?) Here is your brief culinary guide to a Russian-style New Year.

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