Francuska salata didn't come from France. And for a Croatian person, French salad, like any other salad, is not a standalone meal.
Now you know two basic things before you begin preparing this addictive bowl of goodness.
Let's explore the origin of francuska salata. Why is it called French salad? And, where did it come from if not from France?
The specific combination of vegetables, seasoned with the opulent mayonnaise dressing was a signature dish of Lucien Olivier. He was a Belgian chef who worked in Hermitage, one of Moscow's most celebrated restaurants.
The elaborate salad that he concocted quickly spread across Europe, settling in our homes as a special-occasion dish. It is most probably called French salad (francuska salata in Croatian) because of the chef's mother tongue.
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Elsewhere in the world, however, you will find recognize it under the name Olivier salad, or sometimes even Russian salad.
When and how we eat francuska salata
Francuska salata is easy to make. Sure, you need to spend some time chopping the vegetables. Remember, they need to be all of the same size to contribute to the salad's elegant look.
But once your francuska is dressed and mixed, it can keep in the fridge for several days. This is why we love to make it for Christmas, New Year, and Easter, or at other times when large roasts are served to a large number of guests.
Francuska defies the standard Croatian concept of a salad. When we say salad, we think of a bowl of mixed leaves, served as a side dish to the main meal. This is the veg that your mama prods you to eat.
She looks at you like a hawk, counting each time you take a mouthful from a salad bowl. Because salad is good for you - it's healthy.
This is true for 99% of all Croatian salads. Because they belong to something I call the featherweight category. All you get in a bowl is lots of healthy greens seasoned with an even healthier dressing: just olive oil and some vinegar or lemon juice.
Francuska salata is oh so different...
The ingredients are simple, but the final combination, seasoned with mayo, is as rich as it gets. With this salad, we don't need to be coaxed to eat it. Instead, as we grow up, we think of ways to limit our exposure to it.
I swear that francuska salata has special powers. It makes you open the fridge at night and eat it by the spoonful. As you stand barefoot and oblivious, it convinces you it was only a dream.
Recipe variations of francuska salata
The basic combinations of vegetables in francuska include potatoes, carrots, peas, and pickled gherkins. And this is exactly how I love to make it.
Some people add extras to make their French salad even more luxurious. When it's a feast, it's a feast, right? Your optional extras can include hardboiled eggs chopped and mixed into the salad. Cooked and cubed gammon (ham) as well as cubed hard cheese, such as Gauda.
This type of francuska salata can easily become too heavy. So some people add a cubed apple to make it lighter and fresher.
It's up to you to use these extra ingredients or not. My thinking is this: if I am serving francuska with meat roasts, I want it to be on the lighter side. I also don't want to feel too much guilt if I accidentally lose my control and polish off half a bowl.
I love to stick to basic vegetables. On top of that, I also switch one part of mayonnaise with yoghurt. This way I don't need apples. And my waistline is a tad more secure.
Ready for the francuska salata recipe? Here it comes.
Francuska salata Croatian style
- 500 g potatoes (1 lb )
- 300 g carrots (0.6 lb)
- 300 g peas (frozen or canned) (0.6 lb)
- 300 g pickled gherkins (0.6 lb)
- 250 g mayonnaise (1 cup)
- 120 g yoghurt (1/2 cup)
- 2 tbsp mustard (mild, not spicy)
- Drop of lemon juice
- Salt to taste
- 200 g cooked gammon (ham), cubed (optional) (0.4lb)
- 1 tart apple (cubed)
- 3-4 hardboiled eggs (peeled and cubed)
- Peel the potatoes and carrots. Cut them lengthwise into slices and crosswise into strips, then chop into cubes of about 1 cm (0.3 in) size. They need to correspond with the size of the peas.
- Place potato and carrot cubes and peas into a saucepan, season with salt, cover with water and cook until tender (about 20 minutes). Drain and set aside to cool.
- Cube pickled gherkins into the same size as the rest of the vegetables. Take your time and be precise with cutting. French salad needs to be elegant.
- When the vegetables have cooled down, mix in the gherkins. Season with mayonnaise, yoghurt, mustard, lemon juice and salt. Gently stir to combine.
- Leave in the fridge to set. Serve cold with roasted or grilled meat or on its own.
- To make Russian salad, add cubed and cooked gammon too.