Hollywood du Jour: The Brown Derby's Cobb Salad

The Brown Derby, c. 1941. photo by Ansel Adams
The Brown Derby, c. 1941. photo by Ansel Adams

Betty Goodwin’s Lost Recipes of Legendary Hollywood Haunts is now an ear-marked, food-stained, go-to mainstay in my (admittedly scant) cookbook collection. “Since the twenties,” she writes, ” many of the community’s most legendary restaurants sprung up as colorfully as the larger-than-life personalities who frequented them. The tales behind the owners themselves (often rags-to-riches stories) rivaled the plots of any films…” And so Goodwin supplies both the stories and the recipes that made such Hollywood haunts as The Brown Derby, La Rue and Perino’s, ubiquitous in Hollywood lore. Every last one of the 18 restaurants found in Goodwin’s book have been gone at least twenty years (survivors like Musso and Franks and The Formosa are left out) so if you want to actually dine the way the stars did … get out your oven mits and cocktail glasses.

I’ve decided to start posting some of these recipes for your culinary delight, and it seems only fitting to start out with one of the most famous recipes to emerge from a legendary Hollywood watering hole: The Brown Derby’s Cobb Salad (So named after Mr. Robert Cobb took over ownership of the Derby in 1934).

1/2 head of iceberg lettuce
1/2 bunch of watercress
1 small bunch of chicory
1/2 head romaine
2 medium tomatoes, peeled
2 breasts of boiled roasting chicken
6 strips crisp bacon
1 avocado
3 hard-boiled eggs
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1/2 cup crumbled imported Roquefort Cheese
1 cup Brown Derby Old-Fashioned French Dressing (Dressing recipe found below.)

Cut finely lettuce, watercress, chicory and romaine and arrange in salad bowl. Cut tomatoes in half, remove seeds, dice finely aand arrange over top of chopped greens. Dice breasts of chicken and arrange over top of chopped greens. Chop bacon finely and sprinkle over salad. Cut avocado in small pieces and arrange around the edge of the salad. Decorate the salad by sprinkling over the top the chopped eggs, chopped chives and grated cheese. Just before serving, mix salad thoroughly with Brown Derby french dressing. Serves 4 to 6.

(Note: I’m a vegetarian myself, so when I made this I nixed the chicken for some portobello mushrooms and it was scrumdidlyumptious!)

Brown Derby Old-Fashioned French Dressing

1 cup water
1 cup red wine vinegar
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon English mustard
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 cup olive oil
3 cups salad (vegetable) oil

Blend together all ingredients except oils. Then add olive and salad oils and mix well again. Chill. Shake before serving. Makes about 1 1/2 quarts. This dressing keeps well in the refrigerator. Can be made and stored in a 2 quart Mason jar.

(to complete the dining experience, I recommend put on a good scratchy record–for those of you out there who still have them. Or at least a Billie CD. ;)

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Film writer and social media marketing professional. 2019 Social Ambassador for the 10th Annual TCM Classic Film Festival. Previously: social media associate at Warner Archive and script writer for Turner Classic Movies. Working on a Montgomery Clift biography due late 2020.

4 thoughts on “Hollywood du Jour: The Brown Derby's Cobb Salad

  1. That book sounds fantastic. I’m glad someone has compiled many of those recipes. This might have to go on the birthday list 🙂

  2. It’s a good investment, Robby! I’ll post more of ’em later– let me just say that The Cocoanut Grove’s Figs Romanoff recipe is *delectable*!

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