The Cobb Salad
Everyone has eaten or at least heard of a Cobb Salad. It seems to appear on almost every restaurant menu and is what comes to my mind when when I think of a chopped salad. Each ingredient is chopped into tiny bite-size pieces so that every forkful contains just a little bit of everything. Oh yes, that perfect blend of flavor.
The Cobb Salad came up in a recent conversation I had with my nephew and his adorable wife. Somehow we started taking about recipes and how I come up with some of my ideas. I had to give that a little thought. Where DO I get most of my recipes and ideas?
I guess mostly they come from experiences I’ve had over the years– trips I’ve taken, wonderful cooks I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, and reading too many cookbooks to count from restaurants and chefs famous for creating recipes that have stood the test of time.
My nephew, hailing from Southern California, gave the example of the infamous Cobb Salad, with its beginnings in LA. Yes, exactly!
Origins of the Cobb Salad
The Cobb Salad. Well that got me thinking. What is the history of this very popular salad? I’ve eaten countless Cobb Salads and yet have no idea why they call it a Cobb Salad.
As it turns out, many versions exist about the origins of the Cobb Salad. Some say it was created in the 1920s by a California chef and named after Cobb Mountain in California. One version is that it was created by a chef in honor of Robert Cobb, owner of the LA Brown Derby restaurant chain. but my favorite version claims the Cobb Salad was created one evening in 1937 at the famous by Hollywood Brown Derby by the restaurant chain’s owner, Robert Howard Cobb.
Mr. Cobb, during one midnight hour, was rummaging through the restaurant kitchen, mixing together a combination of green leafy vegetables, adding a crumbled hard-boiled egg, avocado, tomato, chicken, onion, crumbled bacon, and blue cheese. He tossed the salad with their famous French dressing (not the orange kind), and the rest really is history.
A Celebrity Hangout
All the talk about the Brown Derby and the Cobb Salad reminded me of a very famous episode from the I Love Lucy sitcom, LA at Last. Lucy, Ethel and Fred decide to do a little “star gazing” at the Brown Derby, and end up sitting in an adjoining booth with actor William Holden. It’s the Queen of Comedy at her best. William Holden actually orders the Cobb Salad for his lunch. If you haven’t seen it, it’s definitely worth your time.
The Brown Derby Restaurant chain closed its doors in LA during the early 1980s, but the Walt Disney Company bought the rights to the Brown Derby and a restaurant patterned after the original continues to this day at Disney World’s Hollywood Studios.
One More Thing
As a side note, many old recipes refer to “salad oil” as an ingredient in homemade salad dressings. With so many oils available these days, knowing what to use can be confusing. It turns out that this catch-all name for any light tasting vegetable oil. So consider using a basic vegetable oil, corn oil, canola oil, safflower oil, or a light olive oil. Or maybe even an avocado oil or grapes seed oil will work. It just needs to be a fairly bland-tasting vegetable oil.
Autumn Cobb Salad
To make an autumn version of a Cobb Salad, swap out the tomatoes for about 1/2 cup of diced roasted squash. Also, I add 1/4 cup of roasted chopped pecans. I’ve been known to use the candy coated roasted pecans. Pure yum!
2 cups iceberg lettuce, chopped
1-1/2 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
1-1/2 cups spinach, chopped
1 medium tomatoes, diced
3 strips bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
1 boneless chicken breast, cooked and diced
1-2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and crumbled
1/2-1 avocado, diced
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1-2 Tablespoons chopped green onion (optional)
1/2 cup (approximately) Cobb’s Old-Fashioned French Dressing
Combine chopped lettuce and spinach. Place the greens evenly in a large bowl or on a platter. Arrange tomatoes, bacon, chicken, eggs, and avocado, blue cheese and green onion (optional) in long strips on top of the mixed greens.
Before serving, mix the salad with the dressing.
Cobb’s Old-Fashioned French Dressing
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon dry English mustard
1 small clove garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (good quality)
3/4 cup salad oil
Blend all ingredients together (first 9 ingredients), except the oils. Add the olive oil and salad oil. Mix well until well combined. Chill and shake to combine before serving. Makes 1-1/2 cups