Walt Disney World is filled with culinary delights from sweet Dole whip swirls to savory spring rolls in a variety of flavor combinations. But when actor and Disney fan John Stamos visits the parks he beelines to his favorite restaurant where his go-to meal is actually a Cobb salad.
In a recent interview with Yahoo Life, Stamos revealed that one of his favorite places to eat inside Disney Parks is the Hollywood Brown Derby at Disney's Hollywood Studios, and the restaurant's iconic Cobb salad is one of his favorite meals.
Yes, Uncle Jesse orders a salad at Disney, but this isn't just any salad. In fact, the salad dates back to the ’30s when the original Brown Derby restaurant was open in Hollywood, Calif. According to the Institute of Culinary Education, the Cobb salad was created in the early hours of the morning in 1937.
Bob Cobb, the owner of the Brown Derby, was searching the refrigerator at the restaurant and started pulling out leftovers of different produce like lettuce, tomatoes and avocado. He also found hard-boiled eggs, cheese and chives. Then the smell of bacon came wafting into the area, so he grabbed a few slices of that to add to his dish.
After tossing everything together, he shared the outcome with his pal Sid Grauman, yes the same Grauman of Grauman's Chinese Theatre. Grauman loved the salad so much he ordered it again at the restaurant the next day, calling it the "Cobb salad."
Disney World continues to use the recipe created by Cobb, from the salad ingredients to the utterly addictive dressing that brings the dish together.
After hearing the salad was a favorite of Stamos, I knew had to try it out myself. While the dish itself didn't seem too challenging, I knew I was in for a lot of work with my favorite chef's knife to cut everything into the tiny pieces the recipe calls for.
There are two separate parts to the dish, the dressing and the actual salad. I started by making the dressing first, which has quite a few ingredients, most of which I already had in my pantry. While the recipe calls for mixing the ingredients in a bowl with a whisk, I opted for a mason jar with a tight-fitting lid so I could easily store my dressing in the refrigerator while I worked on the salad ingredients.
I measured out the proper amounts of water, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, salt, sugar, pepper and dry English mustard. I put the lid on the mason jar and shook it for a few seconds so the dry ingredients wouldn't clump together. Then I added the vegetable oil and olive oil, put the lid back on the jar and gave it a good shake to emulsify everything. Once it looked like it was well-mixed, I put the jar in the refrigerator for safekeeping until the salad was ready.
The salad was a bit more involved than anticipated, but it was worth it for the final dish. In a Cobb salad, iceberg lettuce, chicory lettuce, watercress, turkey, tomatoes, avocado, blue cheese, bacon, eggs and chives come together to create something visually stunning, not to mention delicious.
While my hard-boiled eggs were cooking, I began chopping the three types of lettuce. This was somewhat tedious because the lettuce needs to be in very small pieces. For the iceberg, I cut one big chunk into smaller strips, then into small ribbons. I cut the chicory by rolling it like I would basil, cutting it into ribbons, then running my knife through the ribbons a few times to make smaller pieces. The watercress was the most difficult to cut since it was different-sized leaves, but I eventually got it down to small pieces by just running my knife through the lettuce multiple times. After all of the lettuce was cut, I put it all into a large bowl, mixed it together, then set it aside.
Next, I cut the turkey and avocado into small pieces. This was relatively easy since the turkey I bought was already sliced into thick slices. The avocado was perfectly ripe, so dicing it inside the skin and then scooping it out was simple. Both ingredients were then placed in separate bowls and set to the side.
What was a but challenging were the tomatoes since they took a lot of prep, needing to be peeled and deseeded. To peel the tomatoes I used an old trick my grandma taught me — cutting a small "x" in the bottom of the tomatoes and then putting the whole tomatoes into a pot of boiling water for about one minute. Then I took the tomatoes out of the water and plopped them into an ice bath to stop the cooking process. After the tomatoes were completely cool, I turned them over and peeled the skin back from the flesh where I made the initial cut and the skin came off without any issues.
Once I peeled the tomatoes I cut them into quarters and deseeded them with my fingers. I cut the tomatoes into small pieces — about the same size as the avocado and turkey — and put them into a bowl to sit.
I was lucky when I made the salad we had leftover bacon from another dish so I was able to just pull the leftovers out of the fridge and cut it up. I also got the blue cheese crumbles out of the fridge at the same time because, with my hard-boiled chopped eggs in tow, it was finally time to assemble the salad.
The most iconic thing about the Cobb salad is the perfect rows of ingredients, put in on top of the bed of lettuce. I started with a large serving of lettuce, then began carefully putting my chopped ingredients in rows, trying to avoid overlapping.
When all of the ingredients were on the salad, I poured on the dressing and tossed everything together. The final result looked a lot like the Cobb salad from the Brown Derby, and one bite instantly transported me to Hollywood Studios.
My family agreed that our at-home version tasted just like the one from Walt Disney World. The dressing coated everything without being too heavy, and because each ingredient was chopped so small there was a bit of everything in each bite. After dinner, there was no salad left in sight. I cannot wait to make this again for my family, especially when we need a little extra Disney magic during our week.
The Hollywood Brown Derby Salad
Courtesy of Disney Parks and Resorts
Old-Fashioned French Dressing
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste
1/8 teaspoon dry English mustard
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely chopped iceberg lettuce leaves
1 cup finely chopped chicory leaves
1 cup finely chopped tender sprigs watercress, additional sprigs for garnish
1 pound poached turkey breast, finely chopped
2 medium-size ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
1 avocado, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese (about 2 1/2 ounces)
6 bacon slices, cooked crisp, drained and crumbled
3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives
1/2 cup Old-fashioned French Dressing
Watercress springs, for garnish
Whisk together water, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, salt, garlic, sugar, freshly ground pepper and dry mustard in small bowl until well blended.
Whisking constantly, add the vegetable oil and olive oil in slow steady stream until the dressing is emulsified.
Store covered and chilled until ready to serve. Whisk dressing to blend just before serving.
Toss iceberg lettuce, chicory, and watercress together and arrange in a salad bowl.
In straight and separate lines, arrange turkey, tomatoes, avocado, blue cheese, bacon and eggs on top of greens.
Sprinkle the chives in two diagonal lines across the salad.
To serve, present the salad at the table, toss with the dressing, and place on chilled plates with watercress sprigs as garnish.
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