Recipe from Hazan Family Favorites by Giuliano Hazan (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2012)Time from start to finish: 3 hours and 30 minutes
As far as I know, the only reason this salad is called "Russian" is because of the red color from the beets in it. Although you can make this in about half the time by using canned beets, fresh, baked beets are far superior and can easily be prepared the day before. This is often one of the salads on display at the best gourmet shops in Italy, such as Peck in Milan and Tamburini in Bologna. It is a very festive dish that my mother usually made for New Year's Eve. Though somewhat labor-intensive, it is definitely worth the effort for any special occasion. It's also one of the few Italian dishes whose appearance is as important as its flavor. Decorating it was a family affair, with each of us contributing. I remember I used to make flowers using a green bean for the stem and beets cut into ovals for the petals surrounding a carrot disk. You can let your imagination run free, using the vegetables as your palette.
Photo by Joseph De Leo
1. If using fresh beets, preheat the oven to 400°F. Wash the beets under cold water and cut the tops away from the root bulbs. Put the wet bulbs on a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil and seal them in a pouch, allowing enough space inside for steam to circulate. Place the pouches on a baking sheet and bake until the beets are tender when pierced with a toothpick, about 1 hour.
- 2 fresh beets, or 6 canned small whole beets, drained
- 1/2 pound red potatoes
- 2 medium carrots
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 pound large shrimp (21 to 25 per pound)
- 4 ounces green beans
- 4 ounces frozen peas
- 4 cornichons (pickled gherkins)
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 recipe Homemade Mayonnaise
2. Fill three 4-quart pots with water. Put the potatoes in one pot and place all three pots over high heat. Peel the carrots and set them aside.
3. Once the pot with the potatoes comes to a boil, lower the heat to medium-low and cook until the potatoes are tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the potatoes and peel them as soon as they are cool enough to handle.
4. When one of the other two pots comes to a boil, add 2 teaspoons salt, 1 tablespoon of the red wine vinegar, and the shrimp. Cover and cook until the shrimp have turned pink, usually by the time the water has returned to a boil. Drain, and when the shrimp are cool enough to handle, remove the shells and devein, if necessary. Put half of the shrimp aside and cut the rest into pieces no larger than 1/2 inch.
5. When the remaining pot comes to a boil, add 2 teaspoons salt and the carrots. Cook until the carrots are tender, 10 to 12 minutes, then remove the carrots and set aside.
6. While the carrots are cooking, trim both ends off all the green beans. After removing the carrots from the pot, add the green beans to the same pot. Cook until tender, about 8 minutes. Scoop the beans out and add the frozen peas. Cook for 3 minutes, then drain.
7. While the beans and peas are cooking, cut the potatoes into 1/2-inch dice. Cut the carrots into .-inch dice, but save a few round disks for decoration. Peel the beets (if using fresh) and cut into 1/2-inch dice, but save about one-quarter of a beet for decoration.
Finely dice the cornichons. When the green beans are done, cut them into 1/2-inch dice.
8. Put the shrimp pieces, the cornichons, the capers, and all the vegetables in a large mixing bowl. Add the olive oil and the remaining vinegar and season lightly with salt. Toss until everything is evenly coated with the olive oil. Add half of the mayonnaise and mix it in well. Pour the mixture onto a flat serving platter and shape it into a flat-topped oval or circle. Use the remaining mayonnaise to cover the entire surface.
9. Decorate by placing the whole shrimp around the edges and using the reserved vegetables, as suggested in the head note above.
Time from start to finish: 15 minutes
This mayonnaise is used in Insalata Russa (page 30) and is wonderful with poached fish. Homemade mayonnaise is one of the first things my mother taught me how to make, perhaps because it doesn't involve using the stove. It's not difficult to make but you do have to be careful to avoid "breaking" the mayonnaise, which is when the solids separate and you end up with a grainy, liquid mess-something I remember doing a few times when I was learning. The trickiest part is when you begin adding oil. At first you need to add it slowly, just a little at a time. You don't want to overwhip the eggs either, so as soon as you see that the oil has been incorporated into the mayonnaise, more needs to be added. Some people may be concerned about eating a raw-egg product. The odds are definitely against getting sick, but to be perfectly safe, you can use pasteurized shell eggs. They can be used just like regular eggs, and there is no difference in how the mayonnaise turns out.
Makes about 1¼ cups
- 2 egg yolks, at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, or more to taste
1. Put the egg yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.
2. Add the salt and begin beating on medium-high. Beat until the yolks become creamy in consistency and pale in color, 2 to 3 minutes. Begin adding the oil, very slowly at first, pausing periodically to allow it to be incorporated into the eggs. After about 1/2 cup of the oil has been added, begin adding the lemon juice, 1/2 tablespoon at a time. Don't be concerned if the consistency becomes looser. As more oil is beaten in, the mayonnaise will firm up again and then more lemon can be added, 1/2 tablespoon at a time. Continue until all the oil and lemon juice have been incorporated. Taste, and add more salt or lemon juice if desired. This mayonnaise can be stored in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.