The Cobb is one of America’s favorite salads. But who made the first Cobb salad? And when? Is there a single person responsible for combining all those unlikely ingredients? Read on for the fun back story, and our recipe to make your own Cobb salad, which we believe is the perfect summer meal.
A Star is Born
There are several versions of the Cobb salad origin story, but they all agree that this classic recipe was born in 1937 at The Brown Derby in Los Angeles. The owner of this trendy restaurant – shaped like a derby hat – showed up with a hungry friend late one night and raided the refrigerator. Available ingredients included leftover hard-boiled eggs, roasted chicken, bleu cheese, tomato, avocado, lettuce, and bacon.
So Robert “Bob” Cobb chopped everything finely because his pal Sid Grauman (owner of that famous Chinese theater) had a toothache, and created a composed salad. Sid liked it so much he came back the next day and ordered a “Cobb Salad.” Soon all the stars of Hollywood were eating Cobb Salads, including mogul and studio chief Jack Warner, who frequently sent a chauffeur to pick one up for his lunch.
Since 1937 Brown Derby restaurants (they expanded to a small chain) sold more than 4 million Cobb Salads. Even though the restaurants are sadly no more, the legend continues as Disney licensed the Brown Derby name and continues to serve Cobb salads in Orlando and other park locations.
Variations on the Theme
In the strictest adherence to the original, all the ingredients should be chopped finely and arranged in stripes on top of the lettuce, but variations abound. And the dressing? Should it be a creamy blue cheese or a vinaigrette? The original was a red wine vinaigrette, but you can feel free to improvise and use your favorite. Can you swap out the bleu cheese? Roquefort is the preferred choice, and as any fan will tell you, there is no substitute for that tangy cheese.
To learn more about the restaurant and get original recipes, look for the out-of-print book, The Brown Derby Restaurant: A Hollywood Legend, written by Cobb’s widow.
Our Smoked Chicken Cobb Salad Recipe
This easy recipe is done in 30 minutes and proves that our smoked meats are good for more than just the charcuterie board. It’s ideal for a no-fuss but filling dinner on a hot summer night or weekend.
We’ve combined our smoked chicken breast, hickory bacon, and hard-boiled quail eggs (for a cute twist) with some of our favorite veggies, bleu cheese, and a lemony vinaigrette dressing. Add a loaf of bread to make it a complete meal.
- 8 slices Uncured Hickory Smoked Bacon
- 1 container Quail Eggs
- 1 head butter lettuce, washed and torn
- 1 small head romaine lettuce, washed and torn
- Half a pint mixed grape tomatoes, cut in half
- Handful of sugar snap peas, strings removed, cut in half
- 4” piece English cucumber, halved and thinly sliced
- About 6 radishes, scrubbed and sliced paper-thin
- 1 Smoked Chicken Breast, diced
- 1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and thinly sliced
- 3 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (we used Roquefort)
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
FOR THE VINAIGRETTE
- 1/8 cup white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons finely minced shallot
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon honey
- Juice of 1 lemon
- About ¾ cup olive oil
- Cook the bacon in a medium skillet over medium heat until crisp; drain on paper towels. Slice the bacon into 1/2” strips and set aside.
- Prepare an ice-water bath. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring about 4 inches of salted water to a boil. Carefully add the quail eggs to the boiling water and cook for 3-3½ minutes. Remove to the ice bath to chill. Once cooled, carefully peel all of the eggs and cut each in half lengthwise.
- Make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, stir together vinegar and shallot. Set aside for 5 minutes. In a medium bowl, whisk together salt, pepper, Dijon, and honey. Add lemon juice and shallot mixture; whisk until well combined. Slowly drizzle in olive oil while whisking constantly until dressing is emulsified.
- To a chilled serving bowl, add romaine and butter lettuce. Arrange tomatoes, snap peas, cucumber, and radishes on top. Dress generously with vinaigrette; season with a little salt and pepper. Arrange bacon, quail eggs, smoked chicken breast, avocado, and blue cheese; garnish with chives. Serve with a loaf of your favorite rustic bread.
We hope you will enjoy a hearty Cobb salad soon. Let us know if you have a favorite variation on this classic.
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