Hot food: Cobb salad
A dish favoured by Hollywood stars. Photo: Edwina Pickles
What is it?
The classic American chopped salad, the Cobb was created by the owner of Los Angeles' long-gone Brown Derby restaurant in 1937 from leftover ingredients - namely bacon, tomato, chicken, avocado, hard-boiled egg, chives, watercress, lettuce and blue cheese.
When Hollywood star Paul Newman opened his restaurant, The Dressing Room, he insisted there always be a chopped salad on the menu that you could eat with a spoon. Now it's back, as part of our love affair with American diner food.
Where is it?
The chopped salad has been on the menu at Rockpool Bar & Grill since day one, where it is tossed and served tableside. "It's the perfect starter when you're likely to eat a lot of protein in a steak," Neil Perry says. "Like all things that are simple, they are only great when done well."
At The Diner at Trunk, the kitchen is proud of its "Chop Chop" salad, a gorgeous arrangement of neat rows of tomato, cucumber, carrot, corn, beetroot, capsicum and cottage cheese.
"It's a fun way to eat crudites," chef Orazio Cutuli says. "We don't mix it and mush it. We love that it's really clean, fresh and simple." His tip? "Invest in beautiful vegetables or grow your own; this is where organic veggies will really shine. And take the time when making it to chop it up so that you get a little bit of everything in every bite."
At the Bayswater Diner, chef Mark Williamson does a classic Cobb with egg, cucumber, tomato, crisp bacon, lettuce and avocado, with Roquefort and chicken as possible add-ons. "It's great for a weekend brunch, or as a side at dinner" he says.
At Rockpool Bar & Grill, the chopped salad is cut to order, then dressed and tossed at the table. "We started the house chopped salad in 2006" says Neil Perry. "It's the perfect starter when you're likely to eat a lot of protein in a steak."
"It's an American steakhouse essential" says chef Matt Cambridge of The Chophouse, where there are five different chopped salads on the menu, from a fattoush to the California, a deconstructed sushi roll. "There should always be something soft like a goats curd and something crunchy, like lettuce, cucumber or green beans," advises Cambridge.
Why do I care?
Because it's bright, crunchy and fresh - and it's as much fun to design and compose as it is to toss and eat.
Can I do it at home?
You can turn any of your favourite salads - Nicoise, fattoush, caesar - into a chopped salad by chopping the ingredients and arranging them in rows.
The Diner at Trunk 275 Exhibition Street, city, 9663 7994
Rockpool Bar & Grill Crown Complex, Southbank, 8648 1900
Bayswater Diner 33-35 Bayswater Road, Potts Point 02 8021 3040
The Chophouse 25 Blight Street, Sydney 1300 246 748
Rockpool Bar & Grill 66 Hunter St, Sydney 02 8078 1900
You can dial this up any way you like (red capsicum, celery, carrots, apple cucumber, salami, chickpeas).
4 hard-boiled eggs
4 thick slices bacon, diced
4 cooked chicken breasts
1 avocado, peeled and stoned
1 cos lettuce, finely sliced
200g cottage cheese
100g blue cheese, chopped
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp sugar or honey
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Sea salt and pepper
4 tbsp olive oil
1. Peel the hard-boiled eggs and cut into small dice. Fry the bacon until crisp, then drain well. Keeping the ingredients separate, chop the chicken breast, avocado and tomatoes, and allow tomatoes to drain their juices.
2. Whisk the dressing ingredients together until smooth. Toss the lettuce in half the dressing and arrange in a single line in the middle of each dinner plate. Add a parallel row of cottage cheese and top it with chopped blue cheese. Arrange the chicken, eggs, bacon, avocado and tomato either side, and drizzle with remaining dressing. Let everyone toss their own salad together as they eat.
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