this isn't my salad. not really. this is a salad of generations, made over and over and over again by countless russian families. it was also a revelation to me.
you see, i never realized that potato salad could be anything other than the heavy with mustard and mayo thick concoctions seen in supermarket delis. it's too heavy, i don't like it, i'd think as i'd pass by to grab deli meat and sliced cheese. but when i was introduced to this, made with such a light, thin coating of mayo that brings all the flavors together and melds them in a surprising, perfect sort of way - i realized i was done for. a convert. i loved potato salad. it can be creamy, it can be light.
in russia, this is called salad olivier, (after the chef of the hermitage in moscow, lucien olivier, who invented it in the 1860s), whereas in other european countries this is commonly called russian salad. when it was invented, the dish was something much fancier - made with caviar, veal tongue, and grouse. as time went on, the expensive items like caviar were replaced by cheaper, more readily available items - like peas and carrots and cornichons for that vinegary, pickled bite. most often, a type of diced ham or bologna is also included.
adapted, very little, from my wife.
3 waxy potatoes, diced
1 cup boiled peas
1 cup boiled and diced carrots
1/4 cup diced onion
4 cornichons, minced
1 hard boiled egg, minced
1/2 cup mayonnaise
add potatoes to a pot of water and bring to boil. cook until soft enough to penetrate easily with a fork. add all other ingredients and mix to taste. serve.