Small Kitchen, Gluten-Free: Cobb Salad
Salads are sometimes a bit of a food pickle for people trying to stay healthy. If you add bacon, cheese, egg, and chicken to your lettuce to make it delicious, and then slather it in creamy ranch dressing, is what you’re eating still truly a salad? Emotionally, maybe. But calorically? Hell to the no.
The cobb salad is probably the menu item that is most guilty for being more fatty than most sandwiches. And yet it’s on every menu. I realize this more so now that I am unable to eat sandwiches out at restaurants. In the past few months, since becoming gluten-free, I’ve eaten more cobb salads that I did in my first year of working in a corporate office with all women–women who only ordered cobb salads.
When you can actually find the lettuce, and it’s not limp and soaked in dressing, I actually love a good cobb salad. But it’s always been a menu last resort if I can’t find anything else I like, not something that ever occurred to me to make at home. There are too many ingredients that each need to be cooked separately, and like Cara’s and my desire to recreate the salad bar at City Bakery, it just doesn’t seem that convenient or economical. That is, until you have leftovers to work into the mix.
Last month, my mother was working on making us a big salad for dinner. She had a leftover roasted chicken breast and half an avocado that needed to be used up. Next, she found some bacon in the freezer to quickly fry up. And all of a sudden, we were halfway towards a main course cobb salad.
What makes this recipe a “small kitchen” cobb salad is the use of leftovers and the paring down of the ingredients, which together drastically reduce your prep time and the number of pots and pans used. The chicken and hard boiled egg can be made in advance, or saved from another meal earlier in the week. And we didn’t end up using any cheese (mom is a lactard, and I usually order mine without it anyway). This left us with just the bacon to fry, which is something that benefits from being done just you serve the salad if you like your bacon crispy. Plus, if you’re embracing the fattiness of your salad, you can use a little bacon fat in your dressing.
Speaking of dressing, instead of making a rich, creamy vinaigrette, I making one that was still thick in texture but that gets its body from something healthy: carrots! If you want to simplify your cobb salad still more, simply toss it together with a balsamic vinaigrette or some lemon and olive oil.
Mix and match, and have fun with your salad. I endorse keeping it fatty, so long as your small kitchen isn’t a big fat mess afterwards.
From my kitchen, albeit small, to yours,
Phoebe, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Small Kitchen Cobb Salad with Carrot-Tarragon Vinaigrette
Makes 2 entree servings or 4 appetizer servings
We had some shelling peas lying around, so we added those too. If you have a tomato, that would be another excellent addition, though in my book, it isn’t a defining cobb salad feature.
4 slices bacon
1 roasted chicken breast, diced
1 hard-boiled egg, halved and cut into half moon slices
½ avocado, diced
1 head red leaf lettuce (or 5oz salad greens)
Carrot-Tarragon Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
In a large cast iron skillet or non-stick pan, fry the bacon over medium-high heat until dark and crispy. Set aside on a paper towel to drain. When cool enough to touch, crumble into pieces.
Combine the diced chicken, avocado, lettuce, and peas (if using) in a large mixing bowl. Divide between your plates, and drizzle the carrot-tarragon vinaigrette on top. Sprinkle with the bacon, and garnish with a few sprigs of tarragon.
NOTE: If you are cooking your chicken for the salad (i.e. not using leftover chicken), you can simply roast it in the same pan (if oven safe) as the bacon and use the fat as extra flavor. If you’re trying to save time, and don’t mind dirtying another pan, you can cook them simultaneously.
Makes ½ cup dressing
1 small carrot, peeled
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
½ lemon juiced
2 teaspoons fresh tarragon leaves
½ teaspoon honey
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ – 1/2 cup olive oil
Combine all ingredients in a food processor (beginning with ¼ cup olive oil). Add more olive oil as needed to puree the carrot until smooth. Taste, and add more acid or oil as needed.