What’s Cooking at Third Coast? Refreshing, Protein-Rich Cobb Salad
Welcome to summer, everyone! We’ve been up and back weatherwise, but once Buckingham Fountain turns on and the beaches open for Memorial Day it’s more or less a foregone conclusion. We had the misfortune of broken AC during the record-breaking heat of this past Memorial Day weekend, and it got me thinking about dinners you can make in the summer without heating up your kitchen too much. One of the things I love about Cobb Salad is that it’s so meaty and protein rich it doesn’t feel like “just” a salad for dinner. Another thing I love about it is that it’s a quick meal that’s made with fresh ingredients, so it feels good to eat and won’t take you away from your evening too long.
There’s not too many steps involved in making it, so I’m going to break from our traditional format and bring you step by step with pictures right here. Since there’s recent concern about romaine again, I recommend replacing it with another lettuce for now unless you’re sure of the source and up on the latest regarding the E. coli problem. Also? Save the bleu cheese dressing recipe for when you make buffalo wings.
This recipe comes via The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, whose meteoric rise I did not see coming back in 2009 when I was a new cook looking for another good recipe blog, and I very much like the results, though there are lots of ways to make a delicious Cobb salad, so feel free to tweak.
This recipe makes a big batch. If, like me, you don’t mind leftovers, and if you leave the avocado out, you can take the remainder of your dinner with you for lunch the next day (and maybe the one after that too!) Otherwise, you can halve or even quarter the recipe–I still recommend including different types of lettuce, though!
Here’s the veggies you’ll need, and for some reason I didn’t cover our proteins in pictures, for which I apologize. A variety of lettuces is essential,and my “rule”is this: Do NOT skip iceberg. For a Cobb Salad, I feel like it’s essential. I myself don’t use iceberg very much as it’s not super nutrient-dense and to me, not very flavorful, but the crunch it provides and retains is, for me at least, an essential. I like something like butter lettuce, and again, I usually use romaine, but it can be subbed out, either entirely or by replacing it with something else. I usually use three different lettuces for texture differences. You’ll need some great grape or cherry tomatoes (which you can get from your local farmer’s market’s now, hurray!), some green onions, avocados and scallions.
Now, oftentimes you’re told not to chop salad in advance, as it’ll brown your edges and wilt. This whole recipe doesn’t take long, so I feel like it’s okay to break this rule, and I personally like to have my lettuce especially cold for Cobb salad, so I suggest chopping it up and getting it into a nice stainless bowl like this in the refrigerator while you do everything else.
One of the things I didn’t expect in a Cobb that I found in the Pioneer Woman recipe was scallions. I really like it though, as it’s another source of great crunch and adds just enough onion flavor.
Now, you could have done this prior to even beginning, but if you don’t have hardboiled eggs on hand, hard boil 6 of them now. The method I learned from my fiance is to put them in the unheated water gently, bring it to a boil, and then once it’s boiling, turn it off and set a timer for 15 minutes. It’s produced the best hard-boiled eggs I’ve ever had, with no green tinge or overdoneness, so I swear by it now.
You’ll also want to fry up your bacon. Your salad is only as delicious as the ingredients you put into it, so farmer’s market produce is a huge win for your end results, as is good bacon. If you’ve got a store that carries Wright bacon, I find it to be reasonably priced and super delicious. Fry about six pieces up, and get them pretty nice and crisp, again for texture. Drain and set aside.
Now let’s pay attention to making the dressing. This doesn’t take long and if you’ve never taken the time to make your own salad dressing…do that now. Trust me when I say that fresh, from-scratch salad dressing is easy and the payoff is huge. Here’s everything you need: Sour cream, mayo, worcestershire, buttermilk (another don’t skip–almost every grocery store has this, you just have to check the dairy case thoroughly), chives and bleu cheese. Taking a moment to point out again that the ingredients matter here, so pick a truly fantastic bleu cheese. If you don’t like bleu cheese, try a fresh ranch dressing instead. Also, make sure to include fresh chives, which are, by the way, incredibly easy to grow indoors and outdoors.
The proportions will be listed below, but it’s as easy as chopping up the chives and adding everything else together and giving it a nice stir. Stow that away while you finish out your salad.
Okay! Time to get some more protein involved in this meal. If you’d like, roast a chicken using your favorite method. Since we’re talking about the summertime heat though, and a quick meal, why not use a storebought rotisserie chicken? Believe it or not there’s nothing inherently wrong with these poultry purchases, and rotisserie cooking is fantastic for juicy chicken. Chop up your chicken–I like smallish cubes for this, but you can shred if desired, and peel and chop your boiled eggs to include.
You’ll also want to include your bacon and tomatoes here. It was at this point I realized my bowl was a little small for mixing all of this together, but that’s okay. I managed.
Here’s another controversial point in making Cobb Salad–I wait and add my avocado “to order.” I’m nuts for avocados and hate to waste any bit, so I crack them open per plate so there’s nothing that gets left behind to go brown and soft before its time.
I’m not terribly good at getting photo-perfect avocado diced, but as a rule I find a nice ripe avocado and score it like I’ve shown above, then try to pop it out without mushing it too seriously. Food should look good, yes, but no one’s life depends on it so don’t get upset if you don’t have perfect little cubes.
All that’s left here is to give everything a good toss so it’s mixed nicely, and plate it up. As I said, I add avocado to individual plates and then drizzle on the fresh bleu cheese dressing. Top it off with freshly ground black pepper and grab a fork! It’s a hearty salad that’s perfect for a hot night and won’t leave even the meat-eaters disappointed. And trust me, once you make it fresh at home, you won’t want to go back to clamshell containers in the supermarket.
Bleu Cheese Dressing Recipe:
- 1 cup Mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup Sour Cream
- 1/2 cup Buttermilk
- 3 dashes Worcestershire Sauce
- 2 Tablespoons Chopped Chives
- 4 ounces, weight Bleu Cheese Crumbles
- 1 dash Salt
- 1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
- 2 heads Bibb, butter or other leafy green lettuce, cored and leaves separated
- 2 heads Romaine lettuce, chopped
- 1 head iceberg lettuce, cut into chunks
- 1 lb crispy fried bacon
- 8 oz grape tomatoes
- 6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and diced
- 2 avocados
- 1/3 cup bleu cheese crumbles
- 3 scallions, chopped
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 roasted or store bought rotisserie chicken or several chicken breasts, chopped or shredded.
Chop up your lettuces and scallions. Mix well and place in refrigerator. Fry up bacon and hard boil eggs. Make the bleu cheese dressing using the above recipe and set aside. Either cook and chop chicken, or simply chop up your storebought chicken into bite sized cubes. Chop bacon and hard boiled eggs as well. Add the proteins and tomatoes to the salad, toss to mix well. Plate the salads, adding chunks of fresh avocados and drizzling with bleu cheese dressing, serve and enjoy!