The classic cobb salad has been showing up in restaurants all over the United States since the 1930s (when it is said to have originated at the Brown Derby Restaurant in Los Angeles). But it happens to be the perfect weekend-at-home salad. It’s a complete meal, everyone clamours for it, and if you make it on Saturday night you can use the leftover roast chicken from Friday, the bacon and eggs from breakfast on Saturday, that chunk of blue cheese in the back of the fridge. You get the picture. When it comes to dressing, something creamy is always a good idea, but a mustard vinaigrette is ideal. Take your pick.
Some people like “frizzled” onions. I like them almost carcinogenic. If you do it my way, you end up with some crunchy smoky bits and some lovely chewy ones. I make these as I need them.
bone-in chicken breasts 2, skin on
sea salt flakes
romaine 1 head, torn into bite-size pieces
watercress 1 bunch, woody stems removed
iceberg ½ small head, torn into bite-size pieces
chopped chives 8 tbsp
bacon 8-10 slices, crisply cooked and broken into bite-size pieces
ripe tomatoes 2 large, cored and cubed, or 400g cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
ripe Hass avocados 2 big ones, peeled and cubed
eggs 4, hard-boiled, peeled and cut in half or quartered
good blue cheese 115g, crumbled
For the burnt onions (optional)
red onion 1 medium, cut in half lengthwise then sliced crosswise into thin (about 7mm-1.5cm) half-moons
olive oil 1 tbsp or less (you’re coating, not drowning)
salt and pepper
For the perfect mustard vinaigrette
good quality extra virgin olive oil 120ml
dijon mustard 1 tbsp
red wine vinegar 3 tbsp
finely chopped shallot 1 tbsp
sea salt ½ tsp (or more to taste)
freshly ground pepper
For the ranch dressing
garlic 2 cloves
salt 1 tsp
sour cream 120ml
homemade mayonnaise 60ml
fresh lemon juice 1 tsp
freshly ground black pepper to taste
Tabasco a dash
worcestershire sauce ½ tsp
fresh chives 2 tbsp, chopped
fresh dill 2 tbsp, chopped
finely chopped fresh parsley 8 tbsp
Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 6. Place the chicken breasts skin side up in a roasting pan and completely cover with sea salt flakes, pressing it in a bit so it doesn’t slide off. Roast until cooked through, about 45 minutes. (I stab it with a knife to make sure the juice runs clear.) As soon as it is cool enough to handle, remove the salty skin and brush off all the remaining salt completely. Remove the meat from the bone, cube and refrigerate. I usually do this in the morning and refrigerate the meat all day.
For the mustard dressing, place the ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake shake shake until emulsified.
For the ranch dressing, chop the garlic roughly then mash it together with the salt using a mortar and pestle or the back of a spoon in a small bowl, until it makes a paste. Place the paste in a bowl and then whisk in the remaining ingredients. Taste for salt. Chill.
For the burnt onions, preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 6. Place all the ingredients for the burnt onions in a bowl and toss until evenly coated. Spread on a baking tray lined with parchment or foil and roast until they begin to blacken, moving them around a bit and watching closely to prevent total incineration; there’s a thin line between “burnt” and inedible.
In a large bowl, toss together the romaine, watercress and iceberg. Leave them in the bowl if it is appropriate for serving or move to a large platter. Once you have the greens arranged as you wish, top attractively with sections or rows of the cubed chicken, bacon, tomatoes, avocado, egg and blue cheese. Sprinkle with the chives and burnt onions and serve with the dressing of your choice in a little pitcher to pass around to guests, who may serve themselves from the platter.