It’s easy to overlook Cobb Salad. I mean, it seems like it’s everywhere from restaurant menus to cold cases at grocery and convenience stores, to cookbooks and cooking shows. Why is this salad so popular? I think that the answer is simple: it’s incredibly delicious and makes good use of ingredients that are easy to find. Cobb Salad is the quintessential crowd pleaser.
The origin of this salad aren’t 100% clear, but it can be traced back to the 1930s. Cobb Salad is really nothing more than colorful rows of perfectly diced and chopped ingredients over a bed of lettuce, and the story about its creation being one that used up odds and ends from a restaurant or hotel kitchen seems to make sense.
Traditionally Cobb salad would be served with a vinaigrette, but let’s mix things up a little and keep the classic salad ingredients but use homemade Creamy Herb Dressing, a.k.a. Ranch. It goes really well with this salad. Of course, if it’s not your thing, totally use a vinaigrette made with balsamic or red wine vinegar.
Now, the key to a really good Cobb Salad is to use the best, freshest ingredients you can find. (Or use up some odds and ends from your refrigerator.) It’s worth the little extra splurge for the good bacon. For this salad, try applewood smoked, thick-cut bacon — the best way to cook it is in the oven. (Directions are included that in the notes below. It’s one of those life changing tips, I promise.) Use really good, ripe tomatoes and flavorful cheese. Marinating and grilling the chicken yourself is an extra step, but well worth the effort. (There’s a simple marinade below if you need one.) All of those little things will add up to a stellar salad.
Grilled Chicken Cobb Salad
2 Romaine lettuce hearts
1 pound grilled chicken, diced
12 ounces thick cut bacon, cooked and chopped
6 hard boiled eggs, peeled and diced
1 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
2 avocados, diced (toss with lemon juice to prevent browning)
Creamy Herb Dressing or your favorite vinaigrette or dressing
Lay each Romaine heart on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut into 1/2″ ribbons until you reach the stem. Discard the stems. Repeat with remaining Romaine heart. Transfer the chopped lettuce to a big bowl of cool water. Swish the lettuce around to remove any dirt or debris. Drain off the water and spin dry in a salad spinner. Arrange the lettuce on a very large serving platter.
On top of the lettuce, arrange the other ingredients in lengthwise rows. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
To serve, either drizzle Creamy Herb Dressing on top of salad, or serve on the side.
Yield: 6 servings
Creamy Herb Dressing (Homemade Ranch)
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Juice of 1 lemon, about 2 tablespoons
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
In a bowl, whisk together buttermilk, sour cream, and mayonnaise until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk again. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if needed. Refrigerate until ready to use. Store in an airtight jar for up to 1 week in the fridge.
Perfect Chicken Marinade Recipe
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Place chicken breast in a large resealable plastic bag or a shallow pan. Add the lemon juice, olive oil, honey, and seasonings. Close bag, removing as much air as possible. Turn the bag over to distribute the marinade over the chicken. Place in refrigerator and allow to marinate at least 30 minutes, preferably several hours or overnight. Grill or cook as desired.
– To cook bacon in the oven, place a wire, rectangular cooling rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Arrange bacon on the cooling rack, making sure it doesn’t overlap, but it can be touching. Place pan in oven. Turn oven on to 400°F. Set timer for 15-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the bacon. After 15 minutes, check to see how the bacon is cooking. The pieces can be turned over if desired. Keep cooking for 5-10 minutes longer, checking every few minutes, until bacon is cooked to desired doneness. Near the end, watch more closely because it can go from perfect to too crisp in an instant. Drain the bacon on paper towels and serve.
– This salad can be made ahead, but no more than one or two days, if possible. Toss avocados with fresh lemon juice to help prevent browning, or add them right before serving. Cover the platter tightly with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
Cobb Salad Recipe Variations
– Try adding onions (green or red), corn, cucumber, olives, fruit, nuts, or any of your favorite salad toppings. Figure about 1 cup or so to replace one of the other ingredients above.
– Other dressings that are really good: poppyseed, French dressing, mustard vinaigrette, citronette (vinaigrette made with citrus juice instead of vinegar), or your favorite.
– To make this vegetarian, replace the bacon and chicken with beans or tofu. To make it vegan, add in extra diced veggies, nuts, and olives, and serve with a vinaigrette. To make it dairy free, omit the cheese and use a vinaigrette or non-dairy dressing instead.
Tell me, Friends. What kind of salads are you craving these days? And are you doing a lot of grilling this summer? Also, any other Ranch dressing lovers out there? I really enjoy Ranch, which means I’m pretty sure I’m disqualified from ever calling myself a foodie. Hah!
Credits: Images, styling & recipe by Lindsey Johnson.