The Cobb salad is an American classic and one of the first salads I was introduced to as a kid. It was, and still remains, the perfect salad. A Cobb is a beautiful, bountiful salad representing a symphony of flavors and textures. Eating a Cobb salad is never a chore, but rather a culinary experience.
To fully enjoy a Cobb salad is all about getting the perfect bit. Just enough of the creamy dressing to lightly coat the fresh crisp lettuce, tender chicken, smokey bacon, flavorful cheese and perfectly ripe vegetables. If I plan it well enough, each mouthful remains as glorious as the first, adding in my ability to eat the entire thing without any hesitation. To me a Cobb is both satisfying and completely indulgent, for a “salad“.
It was not until years after having my first Cobb that I learned the history behind the creation of this classic dish. Legend has it that the Cobb salad was born in 1937 at the Brown Derby restaurant in Hollywood California. It is alleged, the owner of the restaurant, Bob Cobb, was rummaging through the kitchen’s refrigerator, pulling out various foods which including lettuce, hard-boiled eggs, cheese, tomatoes, and avocado. Bacon was apparently being cooked nearby, so he grabbed a few slices to add to his dish.
Bob tossed the ingredients together and shared the outcome with his friend Sid Grauman (of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre fame). Mr. Grauman was so impressed that he asked for a “Cobb salad” at the restaurant the very next day, and a classic was born.
The traditional elements of the Cobb salad have mostly remained the same over the years. But the dressing remains in question. Some have said Bob originally used a Thousand island dressing with his creation. But others argue it was first served with a classic red-wine vinaigrette. Perhaps this uncertainty is why when you order a Cobb salad you are often given of choice of dressing.
For my crispy chicken Cobb salad, I have made it classic, but kid-friendly. Although I typically order grilled chicken when I’m out, at home I often make this dish using leftovers so I will make it the day after having made crispy panko breaded chicken for dinner. I also sub out blue cheese for feta or goat depending on what I have on hand. And I make a creamy homemade buttermilk dressing to tie all these lovely flavors together.
How To Make A Killer Cobb Salad:
A Cobb salad is, at it’s core, a basic chopped salad defined by its combination of accruements: cooked chicken breast, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, veggies and crispy bacon. And making a Cobb salad could not be easier, especially if you plan well and have leftovers from the night before.
Cobb salads tend be a go-to for me the day after I make my kids favorite crispy chicken. But, if you don’t have leftovers on hand, no problem, it’s not nearly as hard to make as one would think. Below is a simple breakdown of what to make and where to start:
- Cook the chicken. You’ll get started with chicken first since it takes the longest to cook and cool. Chicken-wise, anything goes when making a Cobb salad; grilled, sautéed, pan fried, roasted, or poached. In a pinch, sliced deli meat work just as well if time is of the essence.
- Boil you eggs. You only need two hard-cooked eggs for a large Cobb salad, so you can simply cook them in boiling water and cool the eggs completely before peeling.
- Crispy bacon. Cook the bacon on the stove or in the oven just make sure it’s nice and crispy.
- Make the salad dressing. Try making it in small mason jarful for easy mixing and less clean-up.
- Vegetables and cheese. Cobb salads typically begin with romaine lettuce, but any lettuce is fine. Tomatoes, avocado and cheese should be chopped, sliced and crumbled last, ideally right before adding it to the salad.
Crispy Chicken Cobb Salad
- For the Buttermilk Dressing:
- 1/3 cup buttermilk
- 2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh dill, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- black pepper, to taste
- pinch of sugar
- For the salad:
- 5 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
- 1 cup sprouts (optional)
- 3 Persian cucumbers, large dice
- 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
- 1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup feta cheese
- 6 ounces cooked (warm or cold) chicken breast (I use Eli's crispy checking recipe), large dice
- 6 slices bacon, cooked until crispy, chopped
- 2 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and quartered
- 1 large avocado, diced
- 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
- homemade or store-bought croutons (optional)
- Step 1 For the buttermilk dressing: In a medium mason jar, add the buttermilk, mayonnaise, lemon juice, dill, salt, sugar and pepper and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Set the dressing aside or refrigerate until needed.
- Step 2 For the Salad: Place the romaine in a large serving bowl, scatter sprouts on top.
- Step 3 Add the cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, feta cheese, sliced chicken, bacon, hard-boiled eggs, and avocado. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and top with croutons if using. You can add things in sections, rows or scattered about as desired.
- Step 4 Serve with the buttermilk dressing on the side.
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