October 01, 1999

A 400 gold ruble salmon

The Russian Empress Anna Ioannovna (1693-1740, reigned 1730-1740) was a great lover of salmon from the Arkhangelsk region. She particularly relished the “malosolny”—“lightly-salted”—variety.  The empress was also very proud of the banquets she hosted and was deeply involved in each meal’s cooking; she loved to take credit for each masterful creation. So it is that a bit of lore surrounds one variety of marinated salmon.

It seems that salmon fillets were marinating in a special spicy sauce in the palace’s cool cellars. One day, a drunken servant responsible for lowering the pans of salmon down into the cellar forgot about one pan and it was left lying alongside an oaken barrel of cognac. This very barrel was the source of the servant’s drunkenness, and it seems the tap had not been completely shut off. So cognac drip-drip-dripped into the open pan of marinating salmon. 

The next evening, the empress hosted a dinner. She treated her guests to her famous malosolny salmon, garnished with vegetables and lemon. The unique cognac flavor took everyone by surprise—not least of whom Anna Ioannovna—and the guests applauded the empress on her new creation. 

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