Princess Andrew of Russia sounds like quite a gal, at least as far as the thumbnail portrait of her goes in Marjorie Salter and Adrianne Allen Whitney’s Delightful Food (Sidgwick, 1957). Married to a nephew of Nicholas II and daughter of an Italian duke and his Russian wife, the former Elisabetta “Elsa” Ruffo (1887-1940) reportedly was a mystic, which certainly raises my eyebrows. What kind of mystic? Did she do card readings? Was she a nun in a secret sect? Did she walk amid clouds of incense? Whatever “mystic” means precisely, Princess Andrew was a fine hostess known for her good food, and included in Salter and Allen’s cookery book were two of her household specialties, Salmon Tatanoff and Caviare Sauce. (The princess herself had died 17 years earlier, in a Luftwaffe attack in England during World War II.)
The salmon is absolutely simple to prepare, it being wrapped in well-buttered parchment paper—en papillote, for the technically minded among you—and baked for about an hour. The sauce was easy too but a bit alarming when completed. Caviar of an unspecified hue was called for, so I cheaply opted for red lumpfish, thinking it sounded suitably Russian in color. Alas, the sauce it made was a brilliant shade of coral, though the gray alternative that would result from non-red fish eggs seemed about as appetizing. That being said, I would serve Salmon Tatanoff again—though I’ll give the darker sauce a try. Perhaps it looks very chic. Frankly the red one looked a bit aprés homicide. Our daughter, however, adored it, saying upon its presentation, “It’s pink, so you know I’ll love it.” And so she did.
SOURCE: Marjorie Salter and Adrianne Allen Whitney’s Delightful Food (Sidgwick, 1957)
SERVES 4 TO 5
2-pound piece of salmon, preferably middle cut
Butter, at room temperature, or olive oil
Remove the fish’s skin, salt and pepper the salmon all over, and wrap in parchment paper, well oiled or buttered. [NOTE: I didn’t remove the salmon skin; it was just too difficult, and I am far too impatient.] Put this carefully folded like a neat parcel in a buttered fireproof dish, and bake in a very moderate oven [about 320 degrees Fahrenheit] for about an hour to 1-1/2 hours. Serve with caviar sauce (recipe below).
1 egg yolk
Juice of 1/2 small lemon
1 ounce butter, cut into small pieces
Butter, at room temperature, to add as needed
1/3 cup whipping cream, whipped until relatively stiff
2 tablespoons of caviar or lumpfish roe
In the top of a double boiler put the egg yolk, a few drops of cold water, lemon juice, 1 ounce of butter, salt, and pepper. Cook over boiling water, stirring continuously. First the butter melts, then the yolk thickens, and you add more and more butter until you have the sauce the right consistency which should be rather stiff. If it curdles due to too much heat, add a few more drops of cold water and whip vigorously. Then add a small quantity of whipped cream and caviar. Stir well and serve.