Salata de boeuf, literally "beef salad," is a traditional Romanian potato salad. The name sounds French but is actually of Russian origin, where it is known as salad Olivier (salat Olivje). It was invented in the 1860s by Belgian chef Lucien Olivier who worked at the Hermitage museum in Russia.
Originally made with beef, it is now made with whatever is on hand—chicken, turkey, ham, or even hot dogs. The recipe varies from family to family and region to region, but what remains constant is the use of potatoes and root vegetables, and the fact that all the ingredients are diced finely. The salad is often decorated elaborately with bits of vegetables (traditionally pickled) and hard-cooked eggs. Adorned or not, it's a great-tasting salad that can be served as part of an appetizer spread or as a main course with crusty bread.
- For the Salad:
- 2 large Russet potatoes
- 2 carrots
- 1 1/2 to 2 parsnips
- 5 large eggs
- 1 small onion
- 2 stalks celery
- 1 to 2 pickles
- 2 boneless chicken breasts (cooked and finely diced), or use cooked beef, turkey, ham, hot dogs
- 1 1/2 cups peas (frozen)
- For the Dressing:
- 1 to 2 cups mayonnaise (homemade is traditional)
- 1 tablespoon mustard
- Salt to taste
- Pepper to taste
- For the Garnish:
- Reserved hard-cooked eggs
- Reserved cooked vegetables
Note: While there are multiple steps to this recipe, this salad is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and cooking.
Make the Salad
Gather the ingredients.
In a large pot of salted water, boil the potatoes in their skins until they are fork-tender, about 20 minutes. Remove them from the water and when cool enough to handle, peel off the skin. Dice finely and reserve.
Peel the carrots and parsnips. In a large pot of boiling water, cook them until fork-tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove them from the water and when cool enough to handle, dice finely and reserve.
Hard boil the eggs. When cool enough to handle, dice finely and set aside.
Finely dice the onions, celery, and pickles.
In a large bowl, add the diced potatoes, diced cooked chicken or other meat, diced carrots, parsnips, eggs, onion, and celery, reserving some of the vegetables and eggs to use to decorate the salad.
Squeeze the diced pickles lightly in a paper towel to remove some of their juice (otherwise the salad will be too watery) and add to the rest of the diced ingredients.
Place the frozen peas in a colander and run cold water over them to defrost. Drain completely, patting dry, if necessary, and add to the other diced ingredients in the large bowl.
Make the Dressing
Gather the ingredients.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard, salt, and pepper.
Assemble the Salad
Add the dressing to the bowl of vegetables and chicken and toss to completely coat.
Transfer the salad to a pretty serving bowl or mound onto a platter. Cover the entire top with a thin layer of the dressing. Use enough so no salad shows through. Decorate the top with the reserved vegetables and hard-cooked eggs, along with olives and parsley.
Cover the salad with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator to serve chilled. While you could serve it immediately at room temperature, refrigerating it allows the flavors to mix together best.
Serve and enjoy.
How to Store
The salad can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.