In honor of the Winter Olympics now taking place in Sochi, we turn to Anya von Bremzen, author of Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking for culinary inspiration. For recipes and instructions on how to drink vodka, what to pair with it, and how to make Russian beet and potato salad, vinegret, and russian deviled eggs with caviar, see below.
There are important rules to abide by if you want to drink like a Russian.
Most importantly, says Anya, never drink alone, “even alcoholics on the street will roundup a threesome usually to split a half liter.”
Once you’ve gathered drinking buddies, you say a toast. Then you clink glasses and bottoms up. Sipping is also verboten. After that you inhale, and before you exhale you nibble on a little something: zakuski.
1/3 cup fresh horseradish
750 ml vodka
Dice some fresh horseradish root but don’t cut it too small because it will seep bitter juices. Take diced fresh horseradish add it to vodka and infuse it for no more than 8 hours. Strain it and chill it. Serve neat and cold.
Russian hors d’oeuvres: Zakuski
Anya gave us her list of some of her favorite zakuski, or Russian hors d’oeuvres that people eat immediately after downing vodka, in order to “stun the taste of the vodka and to make sure that you don’t get drunk.”
Her recommendations include: good dill pickles, herring served with relish of hardboiled egg and scallions, salad olivier, vinegret (see recipe below), boiled potatoes, canned peas, sauerkraut, and a simple dressing of sunflower or olive oil.
2 medium beets, roasted, peeled, and cut into small dice
3 medium boiling potatoes, peeled, boiled, and cut into small dice
2 medium carrots, peeled, boiled, and cut into small dice
2 large dill pickles, cut into small dice
One 8-ounce can peas, well-drained
3 large shallots, finely chopped
1/4 cup ﬁnely chopped scallions (with 3 inches of the green tops)
1/4 cup ﬁnely chopped dill
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/3 cup unrefined sunflower oil or canola oil, or more as needed
1. In a large mixing bowl combine all the salad ingredients and season with salt and pepper to taste.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Toss the salad thoroughly with the dressing and adjust the seasoning to taste, adding a little more oil if it doesn’t look moist enough. Let stand for at least an hour and serve.
6 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and halved lengthwise
3 tablespoons crème fraîche or sour cream
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill, plus small dill sprigs for garnish
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Small pinch of salt
4 ounces salmon caviar
1. Remove the yolks from the eggs and place in a bowl. Mash the yolks with a fork. Add the crème fraîche, mayonnaise, chives, dill, and lemon juice. Season lightly with salt and mix until the mixture is well-blended.
2. Spoon or pipe the yolk mixture back into the whites and top each with a teaspoon of caviar and a small dill sprig.