There is so much I love about summer: lounging in the sun, a glass of wine on a patio, BBQs, the cottage…….but one of my favourite things about the summer season is going on picnics. When I was young we went on a picnic almost every weekend. It was never a small affair. Many family friends joined us and we always had so much fun. Whenever I go to a park now and see a large immigrant family gathered around a picnic table I get nostalgic.
One of my absolute favourite picnic salads is Salad Olivieh. Although I call it a Persian salad, it is in fact a salad that we have borrowed and adapted from our neighbours in Russia. The original “Salad Olivier” was invented in the 1860s by Belgian chef Lucien Olivier, who was a celebrated chef at one of Russia’s most popular restaurants. The original salad by Chef Olivier contained grouse, veal tongue, caviar, lettuce, crayfish tails, capers, and smoked duck. Over the years the salad has evolved and changed and the modern salad is a delicious mixture of chicken, eggs, potatoes, peas and pickles in a creamy dressing.
I love my mother’s version of Salad Olivieh. It is much lighter and tastier than other ones I have tried. Using a store bought roast chicken makes this recipe much simpler and using waxy potato allows them to hold their shape in the salad and not turn into starchy mush.
1 whole roasted chicken
4 hardboiled eggs*
4 medium potatoes, peeled (preferably a waxy potato such as Yukon Gold)
1 cup fresh or frozen green peas, cooked**
3 green onions, sliced (both white and greens)
1 1/2 cups diced sour pickles (preferably pickles in brine)
1 cup mayonnaise (you may use light if you wish)
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
Remove all the meat off the roasted chicken and dice into 1/2 inch pieces. Put into a large bowl.
Add the peas, pickles and green onions to the chicken. Peel the shell off the eggs and dice the eggs into half-inch pieces and also add to the salad.
Put the potatoes in a medium-sized pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer over medium heat. Cook for 30-40 minutes until cooked (use a knife to poke them with to see if they are cooked). Drain and let cool. Dice into 1/2 inch pieces and add to salad.
To make the dressing, whisk the mayonnaise, white wine vinegar, olive oil, 1 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl. Pour over salad and gently mix.
Taste and season with more salt and pepper if necessary. Chill for at least one hour. Enjoy!
*To hard boil an egg: put the eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring the water to a boil. When boiling turn down heat to a simmer (medium-low heat) and cook for 10 minutes. Drain. To cool it quickly cover with cold water.
**Cook as per the package directions. Usually boil them for 3 minutes, drain and rinse under cold water to cool them.