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Russian Salad

Recipe from Vladimir Ocokoljic
Adapted by Gabrielle Hamilton
  • YIELD 6 1/2 cups (about 12 servings)
  • TIME 1 hour

Heami Lee for The New York Times. Food stylist: Maggie Ruggiero. Prop stylist: Sophia Pappas.

Basically a vegetable-studded potato salad with mayonnaise, Russian salad is hugely popular all over the world for family gatherings and festive events. It’s a beloved, traditional party dish riffed on almost everywhere but my own home: I’d only ever seen pasty, congealed versions I would never wish to eat until I tried this one from Vladimir Ocokoljic, served at his Serbian restaurant Kafana in New York City. While not quite as demanding as his aunt back in Belgrade, who used to slice even the peas in half, Mr. Ocokoljic insists on the tiny dice (each ingredient should match the size of a pea) and emphatically dislikes any sweet pickles (only gherkins or cornichons are a fit), making the finished dish delicate, luscious and savory. Whisking pickle brine into the mayonnaise creates a liquidy slurry, loose enough to dress the salad without its becoming smushed and gluey. —Gabrielle Hamilton 

INGREDIENTS

  •  Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 3 medium yellow potatoes (about 1 pound), washed
  • 5 thin carrots (about 1/2 pound), washed
  • 10 ounces frozen peas
  • 4 large eggs, fridge-cold
  • 3 ½ ounces boiled ham
  • 1 cup drained cornichons and 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of their brine
  • 1 scant cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise

 

PREPARATION

  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Season with salt.
  2. Add whole potatoes to the boiling water, and cook 15 minutes. Add whole carrots to the cooking potatoes, and cook both another 10 minutes. Remove potatoes and carrots with a spider when easily pierced with a cake tester or a very thin knife blade, and set aside in a bowl.
  3. Add frozen peas to boiling water, and using the spider, remove them to a separate bowl as they float, until all peas have floated and been transferred to the bowl.
  4. Gently add the eggs, and allow to boil 10 minutes.
  5. While the eggs cook, peel the potatoes and carrots under cold running water by rubbing them gently with your fingers. Rinse the peas under cold running water to cool.
  6. Once the eggs are cooked, drain them, and peel under cold running water.
  7. Neatly dice the potatoes, carrots, ham, eggs and cornichons to the same approximate (and rather small) size as the peas, aiming for uniformity. Gently toss them all together in a large bowl.
  8. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise with the cornichon brine, and pour over the salad. Toss gently with rubber spatula or using your fingers until the salad is well coated. Season with several hearty grinds of black pepper.
  9. Refrigerate overnight, and serve cold