Citizens, the Cobb salad is a main-dish American garden salad made from chopped salad greens (iceberg lettuce, watercress, endives and Romaine lettuce), tomato, crisp bacon, boiled, grilled or roasted (but not fried) chicken breast, hard-boiled egg, avocado, chives, Roquefort cheese, and red-wine vinaigrette. Black olives are also often included.
One way to remember the components is to use the mnemonic EAT COBB: Egg, Avocado, Tomato, Chicken, Onion, Bacon, Blue cheese – then add lettuce.
Ironically, one of the most famous dishes in American culinary history was actually created on the spur of the moment!
Cobb salad was supposedly created at the Brown Derby restaurant in Hollywood. One night in 1937, Bob Cobb, then owner of The Brown Derby, prowled hungrily in his restaurant’s kitchen for a snack.
Opening the huge refrigerator, he pulled out this and that: a head of lettuce, an avocado, some romaine, watercress, tomatoes, some cold breast of chicken, a hard-boiled egg, chives, cheese and some old-fashioned French dressing. He started chopping. Added some crisp bacon — swiped from a busy chef.
The Cobb salad was born. It was so good, Sid Grauman (Grauman’s Chinese Theatre), who was with Cobb that midnight, asked the next day for a ‘Cobb Salad.’ It was so good that it was put on the menu.
Cobb’s midnight invention became an overnight sensation with Derby customers, people like movie mogul Jack Warner, who regularly dispatched his chauffeur to pick up a carton.
There’s also a legend about how the Brown Derby got its name: One night, Herbert Somborn, an ex-husband of Gloria Swanson, remarked — speaking of the mood of Hollywood in the roaring 20s — that “You could open a restaurant in an alley and call it anything. If the food and service were good, the patrons would just come flocking. It could be called something as ridiculous as the Brown Derby.” Hence, a restaurant shaped like a hat opened near Hollywood and Vine in 1926.
Citizens, my version does indeed use chopped olives – feel free to leave them out if you so prefer. I also prefer using frisée greens instead of the classic endive. The dressing I have included is the original recipe from The Brown Derby itself!
Battle on – The Generalissimo
½ head iceberg lettuce
½ bunch watercress
1 small bunch frisée greens
½ head romaine lettuce
2 medium tomatoes (preferably heirloom), blanched and peeled
2 boneless chicken breasts
2 Haas (California) avocados, peeled and diced and tossed with some lime juice to prevent discoloration
3 hard-boiled eggs – ideally cooked sous-vide at 165 degrees Fahrenheit for 40 minutes and then shocked in cold water for 10 minutes. You can get a fantastic sous-vide cooker at Nomiku for under $200
½ cup pitted Kalamata Greek olives (TFD addition, optional)
½ cup blue cheese, crumbled (TFD prefers Stilton or Cabrales, but Roquefort is traditional)
6 strips top-quality bacon
2 tablespoons chopped chives
The Original Cobb Salad Dressing From The Brown Derby:
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons salt
¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¾ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
¼ teaspoon dry English mustard
1 small clove garlic, finely minced
¼ cup full-flavored olive oil
¾ cup canola oil
Cook the bacon to medium crisp and crumble. Reserve bacon fat in pan. Cook chicken breasts in the bacon fat, then dice – you want about 1 ½ cups.
Chop all the greens very fine (reserve some watercress for presentation) and arrange in salad bowl. Cut tomatoes in half, remove seeds, and dice fine. Also dice the avocado, the olives and the eggs.
Arrange the above ingredients, as well as the blue cheese and bacon crumbles, in straight lines across the greens. Arrange the chives diagonally across the above lines. Present the salad at the table, then toss with the dressing (below). Place on chilled plates with a watercress garnish.
For the Salad Dressing:
Blend all ingredients together, except oils. Add olive and salad oils. Mix well.
Blend well again before mixing with salad.
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