Just when many people around the world are recovering from the winter holidays, one special group of celebrants is still preparing for the festivities. Yes, Orthodox Christmas is on its way on January 7th! So we’ve got some of its history for you, as well as our 3 favorite Orthodox Christmas recipes.
If you’re not familiar with the holiday, here’s some background. Unlike Western cultures where Christmas is one of the biggest celebrations of the year, in Russia it is New Year’s Eve people anticipate the most. This began during communist times when, in order to promote atheism, the government banned Orthodox Christmas celebrations, instead focusing on a secular New Year.
The communism is gone but its traditions remain, at least the culinary ones. Seafood and meat salads have always been the most popular in Russian cuisine. Usually filled with mayonnaise, they are not the healthiest out there, but they boast great taste and are often served instead of the main dish.
To give you a quick introduction to Russian New Year’s and Christmas holiday recipes we went ahead and picked 3 iconic Russian seafood salads. These are both authentic and simple to make. Let the holiday culinary adventure begin!
Herring Under a Fur Coat Salad (“Shuba Salad”)
A Russian classic is a salad with a funny name “Selyodka Pod Shuboy” which literally means “Herring Under a Fur Coat.” Sometimes it is called simply “Shuba” (fur coat). This Orthodox Christmas recipe became popular after WWII when there was nothing available in the stores but simple groceries such as potatoes, herring, carrots, and beets (the main ingredients for this dish). Funnily enough, the salad didn’t lose its popularity over the years. Instead, to this day it remains a staple for every holiday and a symbol of New Year’s celebrations in Russia.
A layered pickled herring salad, “Shuba” (or as some call it: crazy potato salad) is a perfect marriage of ‘very Russian’ flavors. It’s affordable and easy to make, but is a festive and authentic addition to any winter holiday celebration.
- 3 large russet potatoes
- 2 large carrots
- 2 large beets
- 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
- 1 (12 ounce) jar herring fillets, packed in oil
- 6 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2 large hard-boiled eggs
- salt and ground black pepper to taste
- Dill sprigs for garnish (optional)
– In a saucepan, boil potatoes and carrots for about 15-20 minutes, or until well-cooked but still firm to the touch. In a separate saucepan, boil the beets for about 45 minutes until they are soft. Allow to cool to room temperature and peel.
– Grate the potatoes on the medium holes of a box grater and transfer to a bowl. Repeat with the carrots and beets, keeping the vegetables in separate bowls.
– Cook the eggs until they are hard boiled (for about 10 minutes). Allow to cool and peel. Separate egg whites from yolks and push each one through a fine sieve into two separate bowls. Set aside.
– Dice herring fillets into small bite size pieces. Finely dice the white onion. Set aside separately.
– On a 9″ spring form pan (or serving plate as an alternative), start to layer your ingredients. First, arrange half of the grated potato evenly spreading across the entire base. Add the finely chopped onion, spread evenly over the grated potato. Put the chopped herring evenly over the onions. Add some mayonnaise, using the back of the spoon to thinly spread across the dish, pressing into the herring.
– Arrange the remaining potatoes over the mayonnaise mixture and evenly layer across the dish. Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste. Place grated carrots over the potatoes and lightly cover with another layer of mayonnaise. Arrange grated beets on top and cover with the remaining mayonnaise.
– Garnish with the sieved egg whites, egg yolks and dill sprigs. Carefully remove the ring mold and enjoy a beautiful and colorful layered masterpiece of your own! (But first allow to sit in the fridge for at least 3 hours before serving to ensure the best taste!)
“Herring Under a Fur Coat” is not the only popular layered salad in Russia. There are many more, but Mimosa definitely comes second in terms of New Year and Orthodox Christmas recipes. It is named after the popular flower in Russia, a symbol of spring, because of the yellow top which looks like fuzzy sunny blooms of the flower. “Mimosa” salad is pretty easy to make and has a delicate taste which will be a big hit even with the pickiest crowd.
- 2 medium russet potatoes
- 2 medium carrots
- 2 (5 oz) Solid White Albacore Tuna in water
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 yellow onion
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
- Mayonnaise (6-8 tbs)
– In a saucepan, boil potatoes and carrots for about 15-20 minutes, or until well-cooked but still firm to the touch. Allow to cool to room temperature, peel, grate separately on the medium holes of a box grater and set aside in two bowls.
– Cook the eggs until they are hard boiled (for about 10 minutes). Allow to cool and peel. Separate egg whites from egg yolks. Set aside.
– Finely dice the white onion and set aside.
– Place Tuna chunks in a separate bowl and mash with fork.
– On a serving platter, spring form pan or glass deep dish, start to layer your ingredients. First, arrange tuna evenly spreading across the entire base. Add 2 tbs of mayonnaise, using the back of the spoon to thinly spread across the dish.
– Add the finely chopped onion, spreading evenly over the mayonnaise.
– Sieve egg whites layer on top and thinly spread another layer of mayo across the dish (about 2 tbs).
– Arrange grated carrots following with one more layer of mayo (2 tbs).
– Place grated potatoes on top and evenly spread 2 more tbs of mayo. (As you can tell, Russians love their mayo, but If you feel there’s too much for you, feel free to use less or skip a layer).
– Garnish with the sieved egg yolks as a top layer, cover with a plastic wrap and let sit in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving. Serve this Orthodox Christmas recipe chilled.
Another staple on any holiday table in Russia is crab salad. There are plenty of variations with rice, cucumbers, tomatoes, and whatnot. Each family has their own way of making crab salad. But to give you a healthier alternative to the other two recipes, we chose this light version that promises to be easy on your stomach.
- ½ pound fresh young cabbage (or Nappa cabbage)
- 3.5 oz imitation crab meat
- 2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
- 4 tbs canned corn
- Salt and ground black pepper
- Mayonnaise (to taste)
– Cut cabbage into thin strips. Put in a deep dish, add a pinch of salt, then mix with your hand until the cabbage becomes softer and changes color.
– Mix in corn, sliced hard-boiled eggs, and crab meat diced in small bite size pieces.
– Add salt, pepper, and mayonnaise (2 tbs or more). Mix thoroughly and enjoy!
Experiments in the kitchen don’t have to be complicated. Have fun with your holiday menu and add an international authentic dish or two to your festive table. Surprise your loved ones with any of these delicious, authentic Orthodox Christmas recipes and enjoy the holidays!
Now you’re an expert on Orthodox Christmas recipes. What next?
– Wish Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to your family and friends by sending a delicious gift to Russia.
– Learn more about New Year culture in Epic Celebrations: American Vs. Russian New Year.
– Share these tasty recipes with your friends by clicking one of the social media buttons!