Brown Derby Style Cobb Salad

This past week has been a whirlwind of activity for us.   Mild in comparison to past years, but after so many months of having the house entirely to myself each day, having the Resident Teen out of school, wondering about summer school, and no summer camp scheduled for the first time in ten years — well — my blogging time is all helter-skelter.  To boot, my husband is sorely in need of a vacation so decided we’d all get away for a bit last weekend.  Needless to say, my poor blog has been left unattended.  Stressfully so.  It feels somewhat like leaving a child that needs attention.

Our little trip this past weekend was to Universal Studios in LA, or Hollywood, as they describe it even though Hollywood is a bit of a trek down the 101.  Still, the theme park is nestled up against quite a hill, and is home of the real McCoy.  You know — the place where Universal’s famous back lot and sound stages are.  The place where they filmed so many wonderful movies — especially the old ones.  Those black and white gems with stars like Jimmy Stewart and Rock Hudson.  Why the inspiration and connection to food?  The Brown Derby restaurant, of course.  No,we didn’t eat there because it no longer exists like so many other of the old places.  But the original Bob’s Big Boy does, so we did eat breakfast there sitting in a vinyl booth, enjoying all the old photos of Hollywood, old Los Angeles, and movie stars.  It was completely great — as was the breakfast which must have had a million calories in it.  Deep fried french toast, anyone?

The Brown Derby restaurant was the birthplace of the Cobb Salad.  I’ve made many over the years, experimenting with the placement of the ingredients on the plate more than actually considering what the traditional ingredients of a Cobb Salad might be, so this was a good experience learning something new.

The idea to add steak was inspired by the July 2007 issue of Sauveur magazine which features a serious hunk o’ beef on its cover and is aptly named, “The Steak Issue,” a great issue if you’re a beef lover.  Although I didn’t have flank steak on hand as the recipe calls for, I did have three thick hunks of top round steak.  Technically the thickness is what dictates whether it’s a steak or a roast, and my pieces of top round were just shy of two inches.  So steak.  The marinade in this recipe is one of the best we’ve had.  The original recipe can’t differ much from mine, but I didn’t have the exact ingredients, so my recipe follows.

Brown Derby Style Cobb Salad

Beef Marinade Ingredients

1 T whole pink peppercorns
1 T coriander seeds
1 T fennel seeds
1 dried jalapeno, broken in half
2 dried bay leaves


  1. Heat all ingredients in a skillet over high heat until fragrant, shaking the pan once or twice during heating, about 2-3 minutes.
  2. Transfer “aromatic” mixture to a molcajete (mole-kah-heh-tay) to lightly crush the ingredients.  (A frying pan against a hard surface works just fine, too.)
  3. Place meat in a large flat-bottomed container and with a fork, poke holes over surface on both sides.
  4. Sprinkle crushed mixture over meat.

Then mix together in a small bowl:

1/2 c. Merlot
2 T red wine vinegar
2 T Worcestershire
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 sprigs rosemary, fresh
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil

  1. Pour ingredients over meat, seal and shake to blend aromatics with liquids.
  2. Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours.
  3. Remove meat from marinade and let sit at room temp for 30 minutes.  Discard marinade.
  4. Barbeque steak to your preference.
  5. Let sit about 15 minutes, then slice diagonally into strips for the salad.

Salad Ingredients

1/4 head iceberg lettuce, sliced thin
1-1/2 c. watercress
2 c. escarole
2 c. romaine, spines removed
2 medium peeled tomatoes
4 pieces bacon
3 hard boiled eggs
1/2 avocado
1/2 c. blue cheese crumbled
3 green onions, sliced
2 grilled chicken breasts, seasoned with salt and pepper only
sliced, marinated top round steak


  1. To prepare tomatoes, boil 6 inches of water in a saucepan.  Cut an “x” across the bottom of each tomato just to break the skin.  Prepare an ice bath and set aside.
  2. Submerge tomatoes into the gently boiling water for about 30-45 seconds.  Immediately drop tomatoes into the ice bath to let cool.
  3. When cool, peel skin away from the tomato and discard.
  4. Cut each into quarters and remove seeds and membranes.  Cut tomatoes into small chunks.  Set aside.
  5. To prepare eggs, after hard-boiling, separate yolks from the whites.
  6. Prepare yolks by pressing them with the back of a spoon through a sieve and gently scraping them from the sieve into a bowl.
  7. Cut the whites into chunks, or crescent slices.  Keep separate and set aside.
  8. Cut grilled chicken breasts into small chunks.

Salad Dressing Ingredients

1/4 c. red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. lemon juice, fresh
2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. ground pepper
3/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 c. white truffle oil
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil

Blend all ingredients together except the oils.  Whisk in oil as you pour to mix well.

Plating the Salad

  1. On a large platter (or separate salad plates depending on your preference) layer greens.
  2. Decide what kind of a pattern you’d like to use.  Stripes are traditional, but small “piles” of each topping is also beautiful.  Experiment and have some fun.
  3. For mine:  Use an oval platter.  Place chicken on one end, and bacon on the other end.  Work toward the center.  Egg white crescents are placed near the bacon, and tomatoes near the chicken.  Steak is placed in the center.  Sprinkle green onions lengthwise over all, followed by egg yolks, then crumbled blue cheese.
  4. Don’t forget to put the avocados on the big salad like I did!  They would be beautiful on either side of the steak…but I had to place them on the plates instead.
  5. Display your beautiful salad.
  6. Before serving, pour salad dressing over entire salad (we used it all!) and then mix well.
  7. Divide onto plates for devouring, and serve with crusty barbequed ciabatta bread.

Remember, an official Cobb Salad does not include steak.  But by all means, give it a shot, because it sure is tasty.

Recipe Notes

  • *This post was updated July, 2012 primarily to restore broken photo links.*
  • I’ve wanted to make this salad again, but years have passed since I put together this version of the Classic Brown Derby Cobb Salad.  Although it seems like a lot of work, good planning allows the prep to move along efficiently.
  • While the steak is marinating, all of the prep can be done.
  • Speaking of marinating, to speed things along, marinate  the meat overnight so it will be ready to grill with the chicken.
  • Alternate greens to your favorites or what you have on hand.
  • Not enough time for all this detail?  Here’s one of my more recent version of a cobb salad.