Called “Salad Olivier” in Russia, Russian Salad is a classic of Serbian cooking. It’s a hearty potato and egg salad made with vegetables, gherkins and Milena Protich’s version includes chicken, with all ingredients cut into small, uniform pea-sized pieces. It’s best made a day or two in advance, so the flavours can meld.
3 medium (approx. 500 g/ 1 lb, total weight) skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2 medium carrots (approx. 150 g/, total weight), peeled and left whole
Chicken broth, stock, or water, as needed (for poaching the chicken)
Salt, to taste
4-5 medium (approx. 700 g/ 1½ lb, total weight) skin-on and scrubbed waxy or alll-purpose potatoes
250 g (2 cups) fresh or thawed and drained green peas
225 g (1½ cups) drained cornichons or gherkins (use dill pickles, not sweet, garlic, or spicy ones)
Salt and pepper to taste
375 ml Mayonnaise sauce (made from 375 ml (1½ cups) mayonnaise, lemon juice or brine from the cornichons or gherkins, Dijon mustard)
Optional garnish: A cooked carrot, sliced into thin coins, gherkins or cornichons, some sliced into coins and another into slivers, chopped parsley
Remove the yolks from two of the hardboiled eggs. Chop the whites with two remaining hardboiled eggs into pea-sized pieces and place into a large mixing bowl.
Gently poach the chicken breasts and whole carrots in enough broth or seasoned water to cover. Remove when cooked, but still jjuicy (about 30 minutes. Set aside to cool. Remove the carrots when they are easily pierced with the tip of a sharp knife; set aside until cool—again they should take about 30 minutes. Save or freeze the enriched broth for soup, gravy, or another recipe.
When the meat and carrots have fully cooled, chop into same-sized pieces as the egg. Add to the other chopped ingredients, mix, and set aside.
Cover the potatoes with cold, salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until easily pierced with the tip of a sharp knife (about 20 minutes). A couple of minutes before they’re done, blanch the peas in the cooking water and then shock them in icy cold water, drain, and add them to the chopped ingredients.
Remove the potatoes when cooked. When they’re cool to the touch, peel and let them cool completely. Cut them into the same-sized pieces as other chopped ingredients. Add to the mixing bowl and gently combine.
Drain and pat dry the cornichons, then chop them as you did the other ingredients. Gently combine with the other ingredients.
Slowly and gently mix enough mayonnaise sauce to coat all of the chopped ingredients. Balance flavour to taste with salt, pepper lemon, mustard or cornichons. If you think it’s dry add more sauce. Transfer to a serving bowl.
Traditionally, this dish is served with a thin, even covering of mayonnaise. If it’s a special occasion, then decorate as follows: Pour mayonnaise sauce on top and spread evenly over the finished dish. To create a flower pattern, set a carrot coin as a flower head and surround it with cornichon rounds as petals and place a cornichon sliver or two as its stem and finish with parsley leaves and grass. Repeat as you can.