The original version of the salad was invented in the 1860s by Belgian Lucien Olivier, the chef of the Hermitage, one of Moscow's most celebrated restaurants. Olivier's salad quickly became immensely popular with Hermitage regulars, and became the restaurant's signature dish. Olivier cooked by recipe of Hermitage restaurant The exact recipe — particularly that of the dressing — was a jealously guarded secret, but it is known that the salad contained grouse, veal tongue, caviar, lettuce, crayfish tails, capers, and smoked duck, although it is possible that the recipe was varied seasonally. The original Olivier dressing was a type of mayonnaise, made with French wine vinegar, mustard, and Provençal olive oil; its exact recipe, however, remains unknown. At the turn of the 20th century, one of Olivier's sous-chefs, Ivan Ivanov, attempted to steal the recipe. While preparing the dressing one evening in solitude, as was his custom, Olivier was suddenly called away on some emergency. Taking advantage of the opportunity, Ivanov sneaked into Olivier's private kitchen and observed his mise en place, which allowed him to make reasonable assumptions about the recipe of Olivier's famed dressing. Ivanov then left Olivier's employ and went to work as a chef for Moskva, a somewhat inferior restaurant, where he began to serve a suspiciously similar salad under the name "Capital Salad," (Russian: Столичный, "Stolichny"). It was reported by the gourmands of the time, however, that the dressing on the Stolichny salad was of a lower quality than Olivier's. Later, Ivanov sold the recipe for the salad to various publishing houses, which further contributed to its popularization. Due to the closure of the Hermitage restaurant in 1905, and the Olivier family's subsequent departure from Russia, the salad could now be referred to as "Olivier." One of the first printed recipes for Olivier salad, by Aleksandrova, appearing in 1894, called for half a hazel grouse, two potatoes, one small cucumber (or a large cornichon), 3-4 lettuce leaves, 3 large crawfish tails, 1/4 cup cubed aspic, 1 teaspoon of capers, 3–5 olives, and 11⁄2 tablespoon Provençal dressing (mayonnaise). As often happens with gourmet recipes which become popular, the ingredients that were rare, expensive, seasonal, or difficult to prepare were gradually replaced with cheaper and more readily available foods. Today's popular version of "Salade Olivier" — containing boiled potatoes, dill pickles, peas, eggs, carrots, and boiled beef/chicken or bologna, dressed with mayonnaise — is a version of Ivanov's salad, and only faintly resembles Olivier's original creation.
- three or four new potatoes
- a carrot diced
- one cucumber (or a few pickles, salted not vinegared)
- five eggs
- a chicken breast
- half an onion
- olive oil
- yogurt (drained)
- black pepper
- green onions
- peas (frozen is best)
- Get ready to boil, because you are going to be doing a lot of it. wash your potatoes and get any dirt off of them, and then add them to a pot of hot, slightly salted water. boil them until you can pierce them easily with a fork, then drain them and take off the skins. set them aside to cool.
- Heavily salt some water and add the eggs. the salt will allow the shells to be removed more easily. bring the water to a boil, cover the pot, and then turn off the heat. set the pot aside covered for around 20 or 25 minutes. this method produces easily the softest hardboiled eggs i have ever had in my life. once finished, drain the water and set the eggs (still in their shells) in the refrigerator or a bowl of ice water to cool.
- Remove the skin, rinse, and dry your chicken breast. put it in a frying pan with half an onion and enough chicken stock to cover. bring to a simmer and cook until done all the way through. set aside. add one or two big handfuls of your frozen peas and your diced carrot in the remaining chicken stock. don’t cook them too long or they will turn to mush and ruin the texture of your salad. set them aside to cool. discard the onion and stock when finished.
- Quarter your cucumber or pickles lengthwise, and then cut them into wedges. while you are at it, cut the base off the green onions and chop extremely finely.
- When all the cooked ingredients have cooled, cut them. the potatoes and chicken should be cut into bite-sized pieces. quarter the eggs lengthwise, and cut them into wedges. put the potatoes, chicken, eggs, green onions, cucumbers, and peas into a large mixing bowl.
- In another bowl, mix together yogurt and mayonnaise at a 1:1 ratio. gradually add a spoonful or two of olive oil. pour the dressing into the large mixing bowl once it reaches your desired texture.
- This next bit is important. this salad cannot be tossed, because it is honestly just too heavy. instead, use a wooden spoon or rubber scraper to fold the salad onto itself over and over. do this delicately, otherwise you will mash your potatoes and crush your juicy little peas. once adequately mixed, add salt and pepper to taste. then, add a copious amount of dill. you are cooking russian food, after all.