cooking. baking. recipes. eating out.

cooking. baking. recipes. home economics. eating out.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Original Cobb Salad

After a hectic Spring week during which temperatures moved wildly between 57F and 97F day to day, the traditional Cobb salad seemed like a cool, crisp, and satisfying dinnertime response to the weather. It is hearty with a bunch of protein but not heavy due to the lack of carbohydrates. The protein will support you as you move into a more active summer lifestyle. If you happen to need or want carbohydrates with this, a crusty piece of baguette would do fine.

On a historical note, the Cobb salad is named after Robert H. Cobb, the owner of the Hollywood Brown Derby where this salad was a signature dish beginning in the 1930's. Nonetheless, a country club in Lincoln, Nebraska has been serving this line up of toppings on a bed of spinach since 1917.

The recipe below is for 2-3 people where the salad is the main meal of the day.

1/2 head iceberg lettuce
2 cups mesclun or trimmed watercress
1 small head romaine

1 tsp. olive oil
3-4 chicken tenderloins, about 12 oz
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
3 eggs
6 slices bacon, cut into 3/4" pieces
4 oz. Roth-Kaas Wisconsin blue cheese, or your preferred blue
1 small bunch scallions or chives
2 plum tomatoes

scant 1/4 c. red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. sugar, any kind
1 garlic clove, peeled, crushed by side of knife
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 c. olive oil

1 avocado

To prepare the lettuces:
Always wash and dry any unprepared lettuces. Take the 1/2 head of iceberg lettuce and cut it from top to core creating a quarter head. Cut off core and discard. Using a large knife or plastic lettuce knife cut the quarters crosswise creating a shredded lettuce. Place in a large salad bowl. Add the mesclun. Tear the romaine into small bite size pieces and add to the bowl as well. While the combination may not seem terribly refined, this works both with a fork and visually. The occasional taste of an herb or arugula from the mesclun is wonderful. Set bowl in the refrigerator for now.

To prepare the toppings:
Heat a small skillet large enough to hold the tenderloins over high heat. Once hot, add 1 tsp olive oil and wait another minute. Add the chicken. Sprinkle with a generous pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook to seal the chicken and turn to repeat, about 1-2 minutes. Next, turn the heat to medium-low, cover the chicken and cook six minutes, turning once. Turn off the heat, leaving the cover in place, and move on to the next steps. The chicken will continue to cook while it sits.

While the chicken cooks, place the eggs in a small saucepan and cover with cold water. Add an egg timer if you have one. Put the saucepan on medium high heat and cook until the egg timer says the eggs are finished. If you do not have an egg timer, this will take about 7 minutes, or longer if you are making more than three eggs, once the water is vigorously boiling. When making boiled eggs, start with the eggs in the pan and add cold water, and also later rinse with cold water after cooking. This prevents the yolk edge or skin from turning green.

While the eggs are cooking, start working on the bacon. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat until hot and add the bacon. Cook until brown and crispy then remove with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels.

While the bacon cooks, using a fork or grater, break up the blue cheese into little pieces. Put in prep bowl and set in fridge.

By now, the eggs should be finished. Rinse thoroughly under cold water and peel. On a clean, dry cutting board, coarsely chop the egg. Or use an egg slicer. Set aside in fridge.

Next prepare the tomatoes and scallions or chives. For scallions, cut off the roots and slice thinly, starting with the white part. Cut up into the green only until the green is no longer crisp, about 3-4" up. If using chives, simply cut into 1/4" pieces. Put in small prep bowl and set aside in fridge. For the tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise. Remove the pulp and discard. Cut what remains into 1/2" strips. Turn the strips and cut into a 1/2" dice. Put in small prep bowl and set aside in fridge.

Make the dressing:
In a small bowl, add the red wine vinegar, salt and sugar. Once the salt and sugar are dissolved, add the crushed garlic clove, freshly ground pepper and whisk in the Dijon mustard. Next whisk in the olive oil, a little at a time or in a small, narrow stream. Once the oil is fully incorporated, remove the garlic clove, discard, and set dressing aside.

Finish the toppings:
To prepare the avocado, slice in half to the stone. Twist to separate halves. Remove stone with knife. Quarter avocado and remove skin. Chop into 1/2" cubes. Remove to small prep bowl and add 1-2 Tbsp dressing and toss very gently to stop discoloration; avocados oxidize quickly. Set bowl in fridge.

Take the resting chicken and move to a cutting board. Cut lengthwise once or twice, turn once and chop into coarse 1/2" cubes. Set aside.

Take the salad greens, eggs, cheese, scallions, tomatoes and avocado from the fridge. Bring the chicken and bacon to hand. Give the dressing a final whisk and pour on the greens. Toss gently but thoroughly and swiftly move on to plating. (Never dress a salad in advance or it will wilt.) Divide the greens among your plates. I use wide rimmed all purpose salad/cream soup bowls. It is easier to add the toppings in distinct rows - the signature look of a Cobb - if the lettuce is not mounded but somewhat flat. Next, put on your artist's hat and arrange the toppings in rows. The order really isn't important. The salad will be more attractive if the colors contrast, so separate the like colored toppings.

Serve immediately. Your dining partners will be delighted: such simple ingredients taste so great all together in a salad.

Above is a picture of how mine turned out.

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