Boy, Mr. Cobb was sure having a good day when he invented his amazing chopped salad, at the famous Brown Derby Restaurant, in Hollywood, California. Here, I’ve provided my rendition and, when fully assembled and presented, this salad is just so amazing to look at (before it’s tossed), that you’ll never regret taking the time to chop the listed ingredients. Since most of the ingredients are do-ahead, this salad makes a perfect choice for a luncheon or a light dinner.
For the salad
- 14 to 16 cups (loosely packed) cleaned, spun dry and coarsely chopped lettuce (mix 1 large head Romaine and 1 head Iceberg)
- 4 extra-large eggs, firm-cooked and peeled, while still warm, then chopped
- 1 medium red onion, minced
- 1/4 cup chopped scallions (green onions), use the white and 1 1/2 to 2 inches of the green
- 1 large or 2 medium ripe but firm Hass avocados, peeled and diced and tossed with 1 tablespoon strained fresh lemon juice
- 2 large red bell peppers (or mix red and yellow), roasted, skinned, seeded and chopped
- 1 can (5.75 ounces) jumbo black olives, pitted, drained and chopped
- 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved through the stem end (quartered, if large)
- 1 pound fresh beets, boiled with skins until tender, then peeled and diced, or use 1 can (15 ounces) of drained beets
- 2 cups (8 ounces) sugar snap peas, parboiled for 2 minutes, refreshed and chopped
- 8 ounces aged Mountain Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled (or use chopped Jarlsberg cheese)
- 12 ounces pre-packaged smoked bacon, fried until crisp then drained and chopped (or use diced black forest ham)
- 1 1/2 pounds cooked skinless, boneless roast turkey or chicken, diced
Suggested Dressing: Mayo-All-The-Way
Mix 2 cups of your favorite mayonnaise with 1 scant cup of minced shallots and 1/2 cup minced chives or scallions. (If using scallions, use the white part and 1 1/2 to 2 inches of the green). Add black pepper to taste, and enough milk to thin the dressing, just to a thick pouring consistency. (Yield: about 3 cups)
To assemble the salad
Put the greens in a large, wide salad bowl (preferably one with a diameter of at least 16 inches). One by one, place each listed ingredient next to the other on top of the greens (split any larger quantity of one ingredient in two portions and place them at different spots on top. Use all of the ingredients, even if you have to push them up tightly against each other (creating an even more intricate design).
After presenting the salad
(And you’re satisfied with several minutes of the inevitable “oohs and ahhs”) bring the bowl back into the kitchen and mix the salad with enough of the dressing to coat the ingredients, without overdoing it. Place generous portions of salad on each plate and pass the extra dressing at the table, along with a good pepper mill. Alternatively, toss the undressed salad and present several different dressings, for your guests to choose from.
Timing is Everything
The greens can be cleaned, but not chopped, two days ahead and kept in a jumbo plastic bag, lined with paper towels. Chop the greens the day of serving.
With the exception of the cooked eggs and the bacon, all of the remaining ingredients can be assembled one day ahead of serving and kept refrigerated in separate, well-covered bowls. For best flavor and texture, prepare the eggs and bacon on the day of serving.
The dressing can be assembled one day ahead and kept chilled, well covered.
The salad can be assembled (not dressed) a few hours ahead of serving and kept refrigerated, covered. If the bowl is too big for your refrigerator, however, don’t assemble your ingredients more than 30 minutes before ready to serve and leave the salad out, at room temperature.
On Chopping Salad Greens
To prevent the leaves from turning brown, after chopping, don’t use your good chef’s knife. Although knives built with carbon are prized for their ability to get a sharp edge, this component can also cause a chemical reaction in lettuce, turning the cut edges brown. The best knife to use (believe it or not) is an inexpensive plastic one. Actually called a “lettuce knife,” it’s available in neighborhood hardware stores and many well-stocked supermarkets. Personally, I purchased mine, many years ago, while watching late-night television. Although, at the time, I thought the purchase was silly, I use this knife surprisingly often, to chop or shred all different types of lettuce.