Classic Cobb Salad, like so many stars, was discovered at the original Brown Derby restaurant on Wilshire Boulevard in LA. First open in 1926, the chapeaux-shaped eatery soon became the place to see and be seen by tinseltown’s brightest. With low-backed booths for high visibility, the Derby was the first restaurant to offer table-side phone service, and the number of calls one received during a meal was a sure sign of power. So were the caricatures on the walls, which were constantly rearranged to show whose star was rising and whose was on the way down.
By the time Classic Cobb Salad made its debut, most Americans knew about the place through columnists like Walter Winchell and Hedda Hopper or the popular screen magazines of the day. The salad, created by manager Robert Cobb himself, was introduced in the mid-1930s. It was an instant hit with figure-conscious stars and starlets who wanted something delicious to pick at, and its fame soon spread. Cobb Salad was the first main dish salad to take America by storm.
While Cobb Salad is delicious, and its Hollywood origins boosted its fame, there’s probably another reason why it became a coast-to-coast favorite. The Great Depression was still going strong at that time. Look at the ingredients below and you’ll see that this is a local produce dish. Almost everything needed came from the backyard, including the chicken and eggs. Even bacon was inexpensive, and the one exotic touch - Roquefort cheese - was probably replaced by something made locally, or purchased by a hostess to add a touch of glamour.
Cobb Salad was easy to prepare and attractive to present, and knowing it was also eaten by Hollywood stars took some of the sting out of Depression dining.
Classic Cobb Salad
4 to 6 Servings
1/2 head iceberg lettuce
1/2 bunch watercress
1/2 head Romaine
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
Meat from 2 cooked chicken breasts, diced
6 strips bacon, fried crisp, drained, and crumbled
3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives
1/2 c. crumbled Roquefort cheese
1 c. Traditional Brown Derby French dressing
Traditional Brown Derby French dressing
6 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. sugar
Juice of 1/4 lemon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire suace
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 clove garlic, finely minced
1 c. salad oil
To make the salad
Chop lettuce, watercress, and Romaine. Mix together and place in a large salad bowl. Arrange tomatoes across the greens, then top with the chicken, followed by the crumbled bacon. Make each layer attractive, since this salad is presented untossed and undressed. Just before serving, peel and slice the avocado and arrange pieces around the edge of the salad. Finish the salad by sprinkling with chopped eggs, chives, and crumbled cheese. Toss and dress at the table.
To make the dressing:
Blend together all ingredients except the oil. Add oil and stir until
thoroughly blended. Chill well, and shake before serving.
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