The Cobb Salad: Proof that Salads Can Be Main Dishes, Too
Discover this “healthy” American classic
For me, one of the hallmarks of a delicious salad—one tempting enough to steer my attention away from more alluring dishes on a menu—is how it brings together seemingly disparate ingredients, ones you could never imagine together in the same bowl. A top notch salad explores the murky depths of flavor and texture and marries ingredients to reveal something unexpected and whimsical. Cobb salad—a mosaic of funky blue cheese, crispy bacon, pulpy tomatoes, juicy chicken breast, creamy avocado, and velvety boiled eggs, all atop a bed of fresh lettuce—is just that. Packed with protein, healthy fats, and dietary fiber, this gluten-free American classic is a reminder that salads can be just as satisfying and filling as a plate of carbonara.
According to legend, cobb salad came into being in 1937 when Robert Cobb, the owner of the Brown Derby—then a popular Hollywood joint—spontaneously tossed together what was left in his kitchen after a long day’s work. What was initially a midnight pick-me-up then became a national hit—one I’d even argue is reflective of the American ethos: It’s a celebration of plurality.
For this recipe, our test kitchen manager and chef Johanna, chucked in sliced cucumbers and red onions to brighten up the dish. How you prepare the other ingredients is entirely up to you, but there are these two things that are non-negotiable: bacon and blue cheese.
How do you like your bacon? Do you savor the snappy bits that sparkle in your mouth or do you like your slices with a bit more chew to them? There are a lot of opinions on how bacon should taste, and the topic of how it should be cooked is highly contested. Despite the age-old image of bacon strips sizzling in their own fat on the stovetop, I recommend baking your bacon. It’ll cook more evenly and requires just about zero maintenance—that’s right, no more scalding grease splatters! Baking bacon is a foolproof method that’ll always result in tender, salty strips that are perfectly crisp around the edges.
Living for the funk
Ah, blue cheese, the big white blocks laced with blue-green veins of mold, famous for a robust sharpness and pungent odor, yet deeply divisive position in the hearts of cheese lovers. It’s a funky cheese full of complex flavors, which to me, makes it indispensable to this salad. Blue cheese is slightly briny with a peppery punch that adds contrast and umami, while cutting through the richness of the heartier ingredients like chicken, avocado, and eggs. It adds depth and stretches the flavors of all the other components of a Cobb in a way that other cheeses simply can’t.
A quick note on chicken
If chicken breast is left a minute too long on the stovetop, all the juice and flavor will inevitably evaporate. To avoid serving bland bits of chicken, here are some tips to remember:
• Tenderize. It goes without saying that the smaller the chicken breast, the easier it’ll be to cook the meat evenly. If you can’t find any small pieces, wrap the chicken in plastic wrap and use a meat tenderizer to flatten it out. For more on how to tenderize meat, refer to our how-to video.
• Don’t touch it! Once the chicken hits the pan, don’t poke, prod, wiggle, or lift it up for a quick peek underneath. Let it cook for approx. 5 min., then flip and let it sit untouched for another 5 min.
• Let it rest. After the chicken is cooked through, remove it from heat, and let rest for at least 10 min. before slicing so it can retain all its juices.
Published on January 26, 2020