The Cobb Salad endures on restaurant menus, decades after once-popular luncheon salads such as Allerton Salad, aspics, Russian Salad, spinach salad (with mushrooms and bacon), stuffed tomatoes and Waldorf Salad have faded into obscurity.
And thank goodness it’s still here, because it’s one of our favorites.
Late one evening in 1937, Bob Cobb, owner of The Brown Derby restaurant in Hollywood, was scrounging in the kitchen’s refrigerator for a snack.
He grabbed a head of iceberg lettuce, an avocado, some romaine, watercress, tomatoes, a cold breast of chicken, a hard-cooked egg, chives, blue cheese and some old-fashioned French dressing*. He took some crisp bacon from one of the chefs and started chopping.
He laid each ingredient in a row, in a bowl.
Cobb shared the salad with his friend Sid Grauman, proprietor of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, who came back and asked for a “Cobb Salad” the next day.
It was put on the menu and became an overnight sensation. Customers like movie mogul Jack Warner regularly dispatched his chauffeur to pick one up.
Since then, the salad has often been served with the ingredients laid out on the plate in rows, rather than tossed or with the other ingredients layered atop the greens, like a chef salad.
Over time, people have added an extra ingredient, like the ham in photo #1 and the corn in photo #2, celery, bell pepper, scallions, croutons, and so on.
People who don’t like blue cheese substitute Cheddar. People who don’t like tomatoes substitute red pepper. People who don’t eat bacon substitute kidney beans.
There have been variations like Wolfgang Puck’s Lobster Cobb Salad. And now, here’s the Cobb Sandwich.
There’s also a recipe for Asian Cobb Salad below.
Ingredients For 4 Servings
Blue Cheese Mayonnaise
 The evolution of the Cobb Salad: the Cobb Sandwich (photo © Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board).
1. COMBINE blue cheese and mayonnaise in a small bowl; mix well and set aside.
2. MIX the avocado purée, lemon juice, salt and pepper until well blended.
3. ASSEMBLE: Spread one bread slice with 1 to 2 tablespoons of the blue cheese mayonnaise. Layer the mixed greens, 2 tomato slices, 2 ounces smoked turkey and 2 bacon strips on the bread. Spread another slice of bread with the avocado purée, and top the other half of the sandwich. Repeat to make three more sandwiches.
Can you call something a Cobb Salad variation when the only ingredients it shares with the original are lettuce and chicken—ingredients common to more than a few salads? We’d say no, but we like this salad with a more appropriate name, like Asian Chicken Salad.
For The Dressing
1. COMBINE the dressing ingredients in a jar with a lid. Cover and shake to combine. Set aside.
2. MIX the lettuce, cabbage, snow/snap peas, bean sprouts and parsley in large serving bowl; toss to combine. Arrange the chicken, avocados, carrots, green onions and mushrooms on top.
3. SPRINKLE the rice noodles and almonds on top. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and serve immediately.
*The French use vinaigrette—oil and vinegar—as a salad dressing. Originally, “French dressing” was synonymous with vinaigrette. Over time, a sweet, decidedly non-French, orange-colored vinaigrette (from ketchup, not a very French condiment) appeared in the U.S. and Canada. It’s what “French dressing” is today. To make it, combine 1/4 cup white wine vinegar, 1/3 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup ketchup, 1 tablespoon sugar, 2 teaspoons paprika, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, a pinch of salt. Our mother halved the sugar and threw in a clove of garlic.