Russian Salad

From John Sgammato

This is a beautiful, pungent, exotic, riot in the mouth, one of the high-points of the Twelfthnight Gala.

Ingredients:

  • Fish Aspic

  • The unmixed ingredients from a Vegetable salad

  • Capers, pickled beef tongue, thick-sliced ham, diced anchovy filets, diced gherkins, sliced cooked mushrooms, thin-sliced black truffles.

  • Mayonnaise Collee

Time:

About five hours including waiting, less if you have an able assistant. This requires four different periods of waiting, so you can do other things at the same time.

Equipment:

A fancy copper mold

To prepare:

  1. Thickly line a fancy mold with aspic and chill until the aspic sets.

  2. Set the chilled mold in a large bowl full of ice to keep the aspic set.

  3. Carefully decorate the bottom of the inverted mold (this will be the top when it is unmolded) with a mosaic of the different diced ingredients. Be flamboyant - it will warn the diners of what lies ahead!

  4. Gently pour in some melted aspic and brush it over the outer decorations.

  5. Chill to set, but do not freeze.

  6. While the mold chills, combine each of the remaining ingredients in odd combinations into individual salads with some of the Mayonnaise Collee. The vegetables should be alone with the mayonnaise (it's OK if the beets turn the mayo pink), and the ham can be mixed with the gherkins, the anchovies with the mushrooms, whatever strikes your fancy. The tongue is especially nice if you season it with a touch of horseradish.

  7. When the decorations are set in place, add dollops of each of the salads to fill the mold, and cover it with a thin layer of the aspic. Let the aspic fill every void. When a diner slices into the unmolded salad, the effect is a random assortment of these bizarre ingredients - no two servings are ever alike.

  8. Cover with a damp napkin and chill for at least two hours, preferably four.

  9. Unmold onto a clean white napkin on a nice platter. Garnish with watercress and parsley and some lemon peel.
    Unmolding can be a disaster if the salad was ever allowed to freeze to the mold. Richmond saved the day at the '04 Gala with the skillful use of a hairdryer provided by the ever-resourceful Joan Robbins.