A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from November 28, 2006
Russian Dressing

Russian Dressing is served in a

“Reuben Sandwich.” The origin of Russian dressing—whether it be Russia, New York, or elsewhere—is unknown. The term “Russian dressing’ was applied to a mayonnaise-based dressing (that obviously was not a French dressing”) in the early 1900s.
(Oxford English Dictionary)
Russian dressing, a savoury dressing with a mayonnaise base;
1922 Hotel World 15 Apr. 15/1 Russian Dressing. 1938 L. BEMELMANS Life Class II. ii. 127 The salad, covered with Russian dressing, is a mixture of endives..pineapple..cream cheese with chopped chives.
7 June 1900, Lincoln (NE) Evening Star, “The Art of Making Epicurean Salads,” pg. 3:
There are as many different kinds of dressing for salads as there are salads. The best known are the French and the mayonnaise dressings.
A good mayonnaise dressing is made as follows: Mix in a small bowl one teaspoonful of mustard, one teaspoonful of powdered sugar, one-half a teaspoonful of salt, one-quarter of a saltspoonful of cayenne; add the yolks of two raw eggs and stir well with a wooden spoon. Add about a pint of olive oil, stirring it in a drop at a time until the mixture thickens. About two tablespoonfuls of lemon juice will be required for this quantity of dressing, this to be stirred in gradually to thin the mixture as it becomes too thick. Then lemon juice and oil should be dropped in alternately to give it the right consistency. Add last two tablespoonfuls of vinegar and mix thoroughly with the dressing. Sometimes, when the dressing is served, a half cupful of whipped cream is added to the mixture.
17 September 1913, Chicago Daily Tribune, “Economical Housekeeping” by Jane Eddington, pg. 11:
A request for “Russian salad dressing” arouses my curiosity as to what some cook has, quite independent of tradition, given that name. As far as my experience in a number of countries goes, the salad dressing served with Russian salad is the mayonnaise alone, or for more exquisite salads a mayonnaise mixed with a bit of gelatin or highly seasoned meat jelly (aspic) melted.
In some cases if a fine salad is wanted each of the ingredients is mixed with a French dressing (marinated), and allowed to stand for an hour or more before they are put together, and served with a mayonnaise. Perhaps it is the effect of the two dressings that my reader refers to when she says: “It is delicious, and I wish to make it at home.”
As to how a Russian salad is different from a French macedoine or jardiniere (the gardeners’ wife salad) it might be hard to decide, in some countries, but there is probably no doubt but that in Russia smoked salmon and other fish are used in it. As it became poplar in other countries only the mixture of cooked vegetables has been used, peas and carrots being essential.
Russian salad in Italy is defined as “all kinds of cooked vegetables cut up together and served with mayonnaise.”
The recipe for “Insalata all Russa” in the cook book of the city of Genoa may be translated as follows:
Make a good met jelly; then a good mayonnaise dressing. Take mushrooms and artichokes for decoration. Cut up beans and carrots well and cut in thin slices a young and tender lobster, well cooked and removed from the shell. Take a little gelatin melted in water and add it little by little to the mayonnaise. Put into a mold first a little of the meat jelly. Spread then on this some slices of lobster; then a layer of the mayonnaise mixed with the gelatin. Then put on the mushrooms and artichokes with some pickled watermelon and a few capers. Then put on the mayonnaise and let it set. Turn our and serve.
This recipe is certainly unique and purely Genovese. It is followed by:
The first essential, as above, is a good mayonnaise. Then put together beans, pumpkin, the points of asparagus—whatever vegetables you choose, make them to mold and grow cold in the same way as above, and serve.

7 May 1914, Clearfield (PA) Progress, pg. 10:
Russian Salad Dressing.
To make salad dressing in the Russian style take four tablespoonfuls of mayonnaise; add half a pimento, chopped rather finely. To this add half a dozen sprigs of chives, chopped fine, and stir. Take two tablespoonfuls of chili sauce and a dash of tarragon vinegar. Add to this mixture one tablespoonful of whipped cream. Whip again thoroughly and serve. This will be enough for four people.
14 June 1917, Boston Daily Globe, pg. 14:
Mix well together 4 tablespoons of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of paprika, 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and dry mustard and 1 tablespoon of chili sauce, then add gradually 1/2 cup of mayonnaise.
6 August 1917, Boston Daily Globe, pg. 8:
Mix together 4 tablespoons of chili sauce, 4 tablespoons of salad oil, 1/2 teaspoon of paprika, 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and dry mustard, then add gradually 1/2 cup of mayonnaise. Serve on lettuce leaves.
12 May 1918, Indianapolis (IN) Star, pg. 23?, col. 6:
The so-called Russian dressing which has been popular in recent years is made in various ways. A simple Russian dressing is made by adding four tablespoonfuls of chili sauce to the one cupful of mayonnaise and mixing well. A more elaborate Russian dressing is made as follows: Three-fourths cupful of thick mayonnaise, six tablespoonfuls of chili sauce, two chopped pimentos, one tablespoonful of chopped chives, one teaspoonful of chopped chow-chow, three teaspoonfuls of tarragon vinegar, one-four cupful of thick cream.
17 November 1923, Los Angeles Times, “Practical Recipes” by Chef A. L. Wyman, pg. II6:
G. G. L. Van Nuys, asks that we give recipes for a Russian salad dressing and a mild dressing for lobster salad.
For the Russian dressing mix in a cold bowl half a cup of mayonnaise, four tablespoons of chili sauce, four tablespoons of finely chopped sweet green peppers, three tablespoons of finely chopped white celery and four tablespoons of finely chopped pimentos. If liked, add one tablespoon of caviar.
3 March 1927, Washington Post, pg. 8:
Russian Dressing.
Mix a half cup of mayonnaise and a third cup of chili sauce. Add to the mixture a tablespoon of celery cut in small pieces, one of pimento chopped to almost a pulp and a half tablespoon of green pepper chopped as finely as can be accomplished. Chill the whole and serve with heart of lettuce salad. There are many other uses for Russian dressing, but from the hand of custom comes to us the fact that more often than almost any other way is heart of lettuce served with Russian dressing.
5 March 1957, New York Times, pg. 35:
Larousse Gastronomique, reference on world as well as French cookery, defines Russian dressing thus: Mayonnaise tinted pink with the poached coral and pulverized shell of the lobster and simply seasoned with salt and fresh black caviar. Certainly that bears no resemblance to the concoctions of mayonnaise, chili sauce and chopped pickles that locally pass as Russian dressing.
8 January 1979, Chicago Tribune, “When is Russian dressing really thousand island?” by Craig Claiborne, pg. E2:
umusing came to mind recently in the form of a letter from Andrew Rothstein of Metuchen, N.J.
“Russian dressing and thousand island dressing,” he stated, “are usually the same. I am curious to know how one dressing came about to have those two different names.”
WELL, THE ORIGIN of the name Russian dressing is fairly evident. In its originaly form, it always contained caviar. Considering it was created several decades ago, it is safe to assume that the caviar was the genuine article—probably beluga or sevruga, not salmon or carp roe.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Tuesday, November 28, 2006 • Permalink

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