Origin: Spain and other origins
Ensaladilla rusa -also called Olivier salad- is typically from Russia but so popular and extended in Spain that it's been included in the national Spanish gastronomy and it's a typical salad in Spanish schools and summer camps in Spain.
Nowadays ensaladilla rusa is a potato salad, mixed with tuna and mayonnaise as well as other vegetables and it's served as a "ración " and also very commonly as a tapa. It can be found in most bars and any typical Spanish restaurants. But its original ingredients not only were very different (in fact it appears to have barely contained potatoes, if any) but mysterious too.
Ensaladilla rusa was invented in 1860 by Lucien Olivier chef and co-owner of restaurant Hermitage in Trubnaya Square, one of the best known restaurants in Moscow at the time and it would soon become it's hallmark dish. But Mr. Olivier maintained the ingredients of his salad as a state secret, as well as the dressings he used and took this secret to the grave
There were many that tried to steal his recipe, and the one who got closest to achieve it was his own cook. Mr. Olivier would go into a room by himself to prepare it. Legend says that on one occasion Mr. Olivier was called out of this room on an urgent matter, an occasion the cook took advantage of to go in and make note of the elements on the table.
Once the cook was fired he began working for a less notorious restaurant and tried to emulate his ex-boss' formula unsuccessfully; those who tried it said the dressing was different and the dressing' secret ingredients are still in Olivier's grave.
In 1904 a group of investigators managed to determine the ingredients of ensaladilla rusa. They interviewed people who dined in his restaurant and the conclusion of the ingredients was: roast capercaillie, smoked duck, cow tongue, cured bear meat, tails and legs of some crustaceans, shrimp, russian crab, smoked sturgeon, capers, fresh cucumbers, truffles, hard boiled eggs and other vegetables, some of them cooked, some raw. Apparently the vegetables varied according to availability.
As many of those ingredients are unavailable in Spain, ensaladilla rusa is defined as a "macedoine" of vegetable and meat products, fish and shellfish, cut brunoise mixed with mayonnaise. The final result depends on the successfully or unsuccessful combination of products.
*These ingredients are more or less the basic ones used, however you can add or subtract any of them to your taste. Ensaladilla rusa is normally prepared for a large party as it requires a large amount of ingredients
Ensaladilla rusa is a great side dish for any meal and it goes well with meats as well as rice and other dishes. Should you ever go to Spain, don't forget to try this salad, whose origin may be Russian, but now it's an emblematic recipe of the Spanish cuisine.