If you’re looking for a wonderful salad for dinner it’s hard to beat the Cobb Salad. Loaded with greens and veggies then topped with hard-boiled eggs, crispy bacon and pan roasted chicken – it’s a feast of color and flavor.
Most versions of a Cobb salad also include crumbled blue cheese but I serve this one dressed with a vintage Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing. Made from creamy mayonnaise and tangy buttermilk it’s layered with shallots, lemon and the nutty spice of cumin before tossing in crumbled blue cheese– it’s a perfect partner for this beautiful salad.
The classic Cobb starts with a blend of iceberg and romaine lettuce. But with the large selection of greens widely available it seems a shame not to use them. Tomatoes and avocados are standard additions but for the Engineer I also include fresh broccoli, cauliflower, sweet carrots and corn. It’s an opportunity to load up on garden fresh vegetables and one not to be missed!
And then there’s the chicken – it should be a star component, not just filler in this hearty salad. Boneless chicken breast have all but taken over the meat cases at food markets. This option has become a consumer favorite since it cooks so quickly – but that also brings a challenge of infusing flavor and keeping the meat moist and tender. Brining the chicken first, then pan searing before a quick roast in the oven provides great results.
Save the drippings from cooking the bacon and use them when sautéing the chicken before roasting – it adds an extra bit of flavor. If you need to plan ahead you can let the chicken brine overnight. And the Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing can be made days in advance – the flavors will continue to deepen and develop.
With a little prep plus minimal cooking time you’ll have a gorgeous feast for your eyes and your taste buds!
Not So Classic Cobb with Pan Roasted Chicken and Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing
Start by making the dressing …
Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing
½ cup mayonnaise
2/3 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Zest from one lemon, about ½ teaspoon
½ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
1 to 1-1/2 tablespoons minced shallots
4 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese – use your favorite
In a medium bowl, combine the mayonnaise, the buttermilk, lemon juice and zest along with the kosher salt, cumin, minced shallots and crumbled blue cheese. Stir to blend well. Refrigerate until you’re ready to serve.
The dressing keeps for about 2 weeks well chilled. A couple of quick notes… This dressing is not thick – if you’d like a thicker version cut the buttermilk to ½ cup. The taste of the shallots becomes more pronounced as the dressing ages. You can start with 1 tablespoon if like a milder flavor.
Next, brine the chicken:
Makes enough to brine up to 4 pounds of chicken.
¼ cup kosher salt
¼ cup dark brown sugar
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
2 teaspoons whole juniper berries
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Zest of one orange, about 1 teaspoon
Juice of two oranges, about ½ cup
4 cups water
1 cup apple juice
½ cup ice
Combine the kosher salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, juniper berries, dried thyme and the orange zest and orange juice in a medium saucepan.
Add the 4 cups of water and heat over medium just until the salt and sugar have dissolved.
Remove from the heat and add the apple juice and ice. Cool completely. Place a large plastic bag inside a baking dish. (This will catch any leaks or drips.) Place the chicken breasts in the bag and pour the cooled brining solution over the meat.
Seal the bag and refrigerate for at least 5 hours or overnight.
To cook the chicken:
2 tablespoons bacon drippings or olive oil
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Remove the chicken from the brine about 30-45 minutes before you’re ready to cook it. Rinse it off thoroughly and pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Heat the drippings or the olive oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat. (Cook the bacon in the same pan you use to roast the chicken to minimize cleanup.) When the drippings are hot add the chicken breasts, sprinkle with the ground pepper and sauté on each side until lightly golden, about 3-4 minutes per side. Do not add extra salt! Note: If the chicken breasts are large, sear in batches. If the pan is crowded they will steam and not brown.
Transfer the chicken to a 350-degree oven and cook for 20 minutes or until done. The juices should run clear when a sharp knife is inserted in the thickest part of the breast meat. Let the chicken rest for at least 10 minutes before carving.
To assemble the salad:
4 cups mixed greens
1 large carrot, scraped or peeled then sliced
1 ripe avocado, chopped
10-12 grape or cherry tomatoes
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 cup fresh chopped broccoli
1 cup fresh chopped cauliflower
4 fresh Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced
3 hard or soft boiled eggs, sliced
6 slices of bacon, chopped and cooked until very crispy
3-4 boneless chicken breasts, about 2-1/2 to 4 pounds, roasted and sliced
Toss the greens and vegetables together in a large bowl. Top with the boiled eggs and the chopped bacon. Serve with slices of the roast chicken and buttermilk blue cheese dressing.