Though the U.S. lags behind and didn’t even qualify this time, much of the world has their eyes glued to TV screens to watch their favorite country compete in the 2018 FIFA World Cup taking place in Russia. Though I have to admit I love American football, I find world football, or soccer, to be an amazing fast moving high energy contest.
My spouse grew up in Argentina and Chile, and was an avid soccer player. And he has the scars (cleat marks across his back) to prove it! Argentina, Mexico, and Spain were our teams to watch this time around! But now we’re down to the final two: France and Croatia. Yep, we’ve been avidly watching the underdog Croatia play their way to the final on Sunday. Go, Croatia!
So our homage last Friday to 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia included:
Russian Kiss, vodka (of course), pomegranate liqueur, and a splash of cava (the Russians historically have loved sparkling wines). Gotta have a cocktail.
A terrific Russian appetizer of a blini (small crepe) with sour cream (so Russian!) and smoked salmon.
We so love the Russian salad in our home, so much better than any American potato salad. It was originally known as the Olivier Salad, with much more exotic ingredients to impress the Czar and his family. The original version was created by Lucien Olivier in the 1860s, chef of famous French restaurant in Moscow called L’Hermitage. Olivier included such delicacies as grouse, veal tongue, caviar, crayfish tails, capers and smoked duck. The recipe for the sauce that accompanied the salad has always been a secret, even if we assume it was a kind of mayonnaise.
Our Russian salad consisted of:
- 1/4 lb. diced cooked chicken (can use ham)
- 2 medium potatoes, cooked, peeled, and diced
- 2 carrots, cooked, peeled, and diced
- 1/4 lb. peas (I used frozen, quickly thawed in potato/carrot water)
- 1 small dill pickle, diced
- 2 oz. the best mayo you can find (or make your own)
- salt and white pepper
- Garnish with sliced black olives (boo, I only had green ripe olives on hand)
Russian salad is lighter than the American version with great textures from the carrots and peas. Once you try it, you’ll never go back!
A typical Russian dish originating in Siberia is Pelmeni, Russian dumplings with small portions of ground meat and onion wrapped in a thin, unleavened dough and boiled, and topped with sour cream, of course! Pelmeni is thought to have originated with the dumplings from China, and is closely related to pierogis, and is, you know, the way various countries figured out how to stuff things into dough, as in Italy’s ravioli and Japan’s gyoza. I went with some frozen ones I found at my local international market which is full of Russian foods.
Shashlik (Шашлык) is a type of shish kebab popular in Russia and is usually passed down from family to family. It’s one of those things that Russians like to do when the weather is warm, grab some marinated meat, a grill, and head to the countryside for a bbq. Pomegranate Juice is used as the secret ingredient to make the shashlik meat flavourful and juicy. The “classic” shashlik should be made with mutton. That’s how it’s often made in the Caucasus, where the dish originated, and where there’s lots of sheep. But Moscow often uses pork, chicken, or fish, mainly because mutton isn’t as available.
This is how I made it:
- 3 pound(s) Lamb, Pork, or Chicken Breasts (I used pork tenderloin)
- 2 small Onions, finely minced
- 2 large Shallots, finely minced
- 4 large Garlic cloves, finely minced
- 2 tablespoon(s) Parsley, chopped
- 3/4 cup Pomegranate molasses
- 4 tablespoon(s) olive oil
- 1/2 tsp. Cayenne pepper
Marinate the chunks of meat overnight with all the remaining ingredients. The next day, thread onto metal or wood skewers, then grill or broil to desired doneness.
So we’re almost to the end of the FIFA experience for this go around. We’ll all be crowded around the TV on Sunday to see France and Croatia battle it out, and if the last games are any indication, it’ll be quite a show.
So who’s your team?