Cobb Salad & Dry Poaching Chicken Breasts



As I mentioned yesterday, I have fallen a bit behind this week.  One thing leads to another and here I sit on Saturday morning chatting with you about our dinner on Thursday night.  I know I could have let this one slide…you probably would never have noticed the missing post…but this salad deserves its own place amongst these pages.  It is classic, it is simple and it is good…really good!

Since its creation in 1937 at the then famous Brown Derby Restaurant in Hollywood, California, the Cobb Salad has succeeded in satisfying salad snobs and meat lovers alike with its simple list of ingredients:  romaine, watercress, bacon, Roquefort {a type of blue cheese}, hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, avocado, chicken & chives.  With such an illustrious past, is there any room for tweaking this ever-popular salad?  Yes, and the secret is in the chicken.

Most of the recipes I have seen for Cobb salad over the years have always called for poached boneless/skinless chicken breasts.  Now, although I am not a fan of poached chicken breasts {grand understatement!}, the rather bland chicken meat in the Cobb was always masked by a few of its more flavorful salad companions, namely blue cheese & bacon, relegating the chicken’s contribution to one of texture more than flavor.  But, a few years ago, I came across this technique for “dry poaching” chicken breasts and I have never again submerged a meaty, full-of-potential chicken breast into a pot of boiling water only to emerge, a short while later, pale {almost gray} and drained of most of its flavor.

“Dry” and “poaching” might sound like an oxymoron, but hear us out! This is a great technique to use with small cuts that don’t have a lot of internal fat to keep them moist. Here’s how…Also called oven poaching, dry poaching is like a cross between braising and roasting. We mostly use it for cooking boneless skinless chicken breast, but it also works well with fish, thin cuts of pork, or any meat that has a tendency to overcook.”  ~  Emma Christensen, The Kitchn 

 Dry Poached Chicken  Collage

For this method, chicken breasts are placed in a single layer into a buttered, deep roasting pan or dish, seasoned {I usually keep it simple with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and the slightest drizzle of olive oil} and then covered with a sheet, or two, of parchment paper that has been buttered on one side.  The parchment paper is then placed over the chicken breasts in the pan, buttered side down, with the edges being tucked in around the meat to create a “cover”…

“The parchment paper traps in moisture, gently steaming the chicken in butter and its own juices. The resulting chicken is always tender, moist, and flavored through with the spices we used to coat the outside. It even picks up a little color from the butter and the contact with the hot baking dish.”  ~  Emma Christensen

Moist, tender, golden~brown chicken adds so much rich flavor to the finished salad!  As for the layering bit…I made this for a potluck function I attended a while back and, in a rush to get out the door, I simply added the ingredients, a layer at a time, to a glass serving bowl thinking I would toss when I arrived at my destination.  Well, it looked so pretty in that layered state that I have continued making this salad in the same fashion.  I also don’t add the dressing into the salad bowl, but rather let individuals drizzle as little or as much dressing on their serving according to their own preference.  This way the left over salad in the bowl, sans dressing, can be covered and enjoyed the following day.


Layered Cobb Salad
A classic salad gets a flavor boost from dry poached chicken breasts
  1. 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  2. 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  3. 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  4. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  5. 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  6. 3/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  7. 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  8. 1 small clove garlic, finely minced
  9. 3/4 cup olive oil
  1. 1 head of romaine lettuce, washed and chopped
  2. 3 boneless/skinless chicken breasts, dry poached
  3. 6 slices cooked bacon, chopped
  4. 3 medium plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  5. 4 ounces crumbled Roquefort {or other crumbled blue cheese}
  6. 2 avocados, halved, pit removed, peeled and diced
  7. 1 bunch watercress, stems discarded
  8. 3 large, hard boiled eggs, peeled and finely chopped
  9. 3 tablespoons fresh chives, finely chopped
  1. Whisk together all dressing ingredients except oil in a bowl, then add oil in a slow stream, whisking until emulsified.
  2. Spread romaine over bottom of a 6- to 8-quart glass bowl and top with an even layer of chicken. Sprinkle bacon over chicken, then continue layering with tomatoes, cheese, avocados, watercress, eggs, and chives.
  3. Just before serving, toss the salad and serve with dressing on the side.
  1. Instructions for dry poaching chicken breasts can be found here:
Adapted from Food History @ The Kitchen Project

K Initial

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