A Taste of Russia: Summer Picnic at the Dacha with Paul Young

Do a deep dive into Russian culture with Paul Young as we sample a wide range of seasonal delights from a country with a fascinating history and even more fascinating cuisine. 


Dachas are summer homes for city dwellers in Moscow or St. Petersburg. Because Russian summers are relatively short, many people spend most of the warmer months in the country growing their own vegetables and dining outdoors. Even though it's still winter here, we'll imagine that it's the summer solstice and prepare an evening picnic under the midnight sun. Here's the menu:


  • Caviar & Vodka Toast
  • Carpathian Mushroom Soup
  • Shuba (Layered Herring Salad)
  • Olivier (Potato Salad)
Caviar & Vodka Toast
Bread (dark Russian rye preferred, or any dark Eastern European bread)
Butter, room temperature
Salmon roe
Vodka (potato vodka like Chopin have the cleanest "flavor")
Capathian Mushroom Soup
Dried porcini mushrooms
2 ounces
4 tablespoons
Baby bella mushrooms, sliced
8 ounces
Yellow onion, chopped
Garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon
3 cups
Medium carrot, diced
Celery stalks, diced
Medium potato, diced
Mushroom base
5 teaspoons
Salt and pepper
To taste
Chopped dill, for garnish
Sour cream, for garnish
Shuba (Layered Herring Salad)
Springform cake pan ring
Medium beets
Medium potatoes
Medium carrots
Large eggs
Salt and pepper
To taste
Herring filets in wine sauce, drained and chopped into 1/2-inch chunks
32 ounce jar
Medium yellow onion, finely chopped
Fresh dill
4 tablespoons
1 1/2 cups
Freshly ground black pepper
For garnish
Olivier (Potato Salad)
Frozen green peas, defrosted
Hard-boiled eggs
Green onions, diced
1 cup
Small cucumbers, diced
Apple, peeled, cored, diced
Ham or bologna, diced
1/4 pound
Salt and pepper
To taste
2 cups
Caviar & Vodka Toast

Serves many

  1. Cut bread into bite-sized pieces.
  2. Spread butter on bread.
  3. Top with salmon roe.
  4. Pour a shot of vodka into a glass.
  5. Say “За здоровье!” [za zda-ró-vye] (literally "To your health!")


Carpathian Mushroom Soup

Serves 6

  1. Rehydrate dried mushrooms in 3 cups of warm water (8 hours minimum).
  2. Drain most of the stock, but retain 1 cup. Set aside.
  3. Puree mushrooms and remaining stock in a blender. Set aside.
  4. In a soup pot, melt 2 tablespoons of butter.
  5. Add fresh mushrooms, and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Remove from pot and set aside.
  6. Add remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and onions, and saute until soft, about 5 minutes.
  7. Add garlic and saute briefly, about 1 minute.
  8. Add flour, and cook mixture over low heat for about 1 minute while stirring constantly (do not allow flour to burn).
  9. Add the water, 1 cup of the dried mushroom stock, carrots, celery, and potatoes; bring broth to a boil.
  10. Add mushroom base and sauteed mushrooms; simmer for 10 minutes.
  11. Add salt and pepper (to taste).
  12. Add blended porcini stock. Stir well and adjust seasoning.
  13. To serve: garnish with sour cream and fresh dill, if desired.


Shuba (Layered Herring Salad)

Serves 8-10


  1. In a large pot, bring about 3 quarts of water to a boil.
  2. Add the beets and cook for 20 minutes; add the potatoes and cook for another 20 minutes; add the carrots and continue cooking for an additional 20 minutes (add more water if needed).
  3. While the veggies are cooking, boil the eggs (about 12 minutes); cool under cold running water, then peel; chop 5 of the hard-boiled eggs, set aside (leave the last egg intact).
  4. When the veggies are cooked (but still slightly hard), drain and let cool for 10 minutes. Peel the veggies.
  5. Chop the potatoes and set aside.
  6. Shred (or finely julienne) the carrots and beets; set aside in separate bowls.
  7. Assemble the layered salad: on a large serving platter, place the ring of a springform pan (do not use the bottom).
  8. Combine chopped potatoes with 1/2 cup of the mayonnaise. Add salt and pepper to taste, then spread evenly in the ring as the bottom layer.
  9. Combine carrots with another 1/2 cup of mayonnaise. Add salt and pepper to taste, then spread evenly in the ring as the second layer. 
  10. Combine chopped herring, dill, and more onions (if the marinated herring filets do not have enough onions). Add to the ring as the third layer.
  11. Add chopped eggs to the ring as the fourth layer.
  12. Combine beets and another 1/2 cup of mayonnaise. Add salt to taste, then spread evenly in the ring as the last layer.
  13. Press down all the layers with a large spatula to help firm up the salad; use a paper towel to sponge up the juices that might seep out at the bottom of the ring.
  14. Separate the egg whites from the yolk of the remaining egg.
  15. Carefully grate the white part of the hard-boiled egg over the center of the top layer, spreading evenly as you grate; then top with crumbled egg yolk.
  16. Garnish with fresh dill, then refrigerate for at least 4-6 hours or overnight.
  17. To serve: release and remove the springform, then cut like you would cut a cake.
  18. Garnish with additional freshly ground black pepper.


Olivier (Potato Salad)

Serves 8-10

  1. Defrost the sweet peas. Set aside.
  2. Boil the eggs (about 12 minutes). Rinse under cold water. Peel, chop, and set aside.
  3. In a large pot, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil.
  4. Add the potatoes and cook for 20 minutes. Add the carrots and continue cooking for an additional 20 minutes (add more water if needed to cover the veggies).
  5. When the potatoes and carrots are fork-tender, drain and let cool for 10 minutes. Peel and dice the veggies.
  6. Dice the cucumbers, green onions, and ham or bologna (remove casing first).
  7. Place all the diced ingredients into a large mixing bowl, then fold in the mayonnaise and mix gently with your hands (be sure not to mash the salad).
  8. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Let salad rest in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours before serving (this allows the flavors to soak in).
  10. Optional: use a cookie cutter or plastic cup (cut in half) as a mold for serving.
  11. Garnish with fresh dill.