How to Make Disney’s Hollywood Brown Derby Cobb Salad

The Cobb Salad at Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Brown Derby is a must-order for actor John Stamos when he visits the parks. (Photo: Getty/Megan duBois)

Walt Disney World is filled with culinary delights from sweet Dole Whipped Swirls to savory Spring Rolls in a variety of flavor combinations. But when actor and Disney fan John Stamos visits the parks, he goes to his favorite restaurant, where his meal is actually a Cobb salad.

In a recent interview with Yahoo Life, Stamos revealed that one of his favorite places to eat at the 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 it’s not just any salad. In fact, the salad dates back to the 1930s when the original Brown Derby restaurant was open in Hollywood, California. According to the Culinary Education Institute, the Cobb salad was created in the early hours of 1937.

Bob Cobb, the owner of the Brown Derby, was rummaging through the restaurant’s refrigerator and began pulling out leftovers from various produce such as lettuce, tomatoes and avocados. He also found boiled eggs, cheese and chives. Then the smell of bacon wafted into the area, so he grabbed a few slices of it to add to his plate.

After putting it all together, he shared the result with his friend Sid Grauman, yes, the same Grauman of Grauman’s Chinese Theater. Grauman loved the salad so much that he ordered it again at the restaurant the next day, calling it the “Cobb Salad.”

Disney World continues to use the recipe Cobb created, from the salad ingredients to the utterly addictive dressing that brings the dish together.

After hearing that the salad was Stamos’ favorite, I knew I had to try it for myself. Although the dish itself didn’t look too difficult, I knew I had to work hard 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 wire whisk, I opted for a jar with a tight-fitting lid so I could easily store my dressing in the fridge while I worked with the salad ingredients.

While I prepared the salad, I kept the dressing in a jar in the fridge.  (Photo: Megan duBois)

While I prepared the salad, I kept the dressing in a jar in the fridge. (Photo: Megan duBois)

I measured the correct amounts of water, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, salt, sugar, pepper and dry English mustard. I put the lid on the 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 seemed well mixed, I put the jar in the fridge to store until the salad was ready.

The salad was a little more filling than expected, 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.

Three types of lettuce make up the Hollywood Brown Derby Cobb Salad.  (Photo: Megan duBois)

Three types of lettuce make up the Hollywood Brown Derby Cobb Salad. (Photo: Megan duBois)

While my boiled eggs were cooking, I started chopping the three types of lettuce. This was kind of tedious because the lettuce has to be in very small pieces. For the iceberg, I cut a large piece into smaller strips and then into small ribbons. I cut the chicory by rolling it up like I would basil, cutting it into ribbons, and then running my knife through the ribbons a few times to make smaller pieces. The cardamom was the hardest to cut as it had different sized leaves, but I eventually got it into small pieces just by running my knife through the lettuce several times. After all the lettuce was chopped, I put it all in a large bowl, tossed it together, and 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 thickly sliced. The avocado was perfectly ripe, so dicing it inside the skin and then removing it was simple. Both ingredients were then placed in separate bowls and set aside.

By slicing the avocado in its skin, it was easy to remove and add to the salad.  (Photo: Megan duBois)

By slicing the avocado in its skin, it was easy to remove and add to the salad. (Photo: Megan duBois)

What was challenging was the tomatoes since they took a lot of preparation, they had to be peeled and seeded. To peel the tomatoes I used an old trick my grandmother taught me — cutting a small “x” in the bottom of the tomatoes, then placing the whole tomatoes in a pot of boiling water for about a minute. I then removed the tomatoes from the water and placed them in an ice bath to stop the cooking process. After the tomatoes were completely cooled, I turned them over and peeled back the flesh where I made the original cut and the skin came off without any problem.

Once I peeled the tomatoes I quartered them 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 in a bowl to sit.

I was lucky when I made the salad that we had leftover bacon from another dish, so I was able to take the leftovers out of the fridge and chop them up. I also pulled the blue cheese crumbles out of the fridge at the same time because, with my 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, placed on top of the bed of lettuce. I started with a large portion of lettuce and then began carefully layering my chopped ingredients, trying to avoid overlapping.

My delicious Cobb Salad, tossed and served.  (Photo: Megan duBois)

My delicious Cobb Salad, tossed and served. (Photo: Megan duBois)

When all the ingredients were on the salad, I added the dressing and tossed it all together. The end result was very similar to the Cobb Salad from the Brown Derby, and one bite instantly transported me to Hollywood Studios.

My family agreed that our version of the house looked just like the one at Walt Disney World. The dressing coated everything without being too heavy, and because each ingredient was chopped so small, there was a little bit of everything in every bite. After dinner, there was no salad ahead. I can’t wait to do this again for my family, especially when we need a little extra Disney magic during our week.

Concession of Disney Parks and Resorts

(Photo: Megan duBois)

(Photo: Megan duBois)

Components:

Old fashioned French attire

  • 2 tablespoons of water

  • 2 tablespoons of 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 of sugar

  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste

  • 1/8 teaspoon dry English mustard

  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil

Salad

  • 1 cup chopped iceberg lettuce leaves

  • 1 cup chopped chicory leaves

  • 1 cup chopped tender watercress sprigs, extra sprigs for garnish

  • 1 kg poached turkey breast, chopped

  • 2 medium-sized ripe tomatoes, cleaned, seeded and chopped

  • 1 avocado, peeled, seeded and chopped

  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese (about 2 1/2 ounces)

  • 6 slices bacon, cooked crisp, drained and crumbled

  • 3 boiled eggs, cleaned and chopped

  • 2 tablespoons fresh chives, finely chopped

  • 1/2 cup Old Fashioned French Dressing

  • Watercress springs, for garnish

Instructions:

For dressing:

  1. Whisk together the water, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, salt, garlic, sugar, freshly ground pepper, and dry mustard in a small bowl until well blended.

  2. Stirring constantly, add the vegetable oil and olive oil in a slow steady stream until the dressing is emulsified.

  3. Store covered and chilled until ready to serve. Whisk the dressing to mix just before serving.

For salad:

  1. Mix together the iceberg lettuce, chicory and cardamom and arrange them in a salad bowl.

  2. In straight and separate lines, arrange turkey, tomatoes, avocado, blue cheese, bacon and eggs over greens.

  3. Sprinkle the chives in two diagonal lines all over the salad.

  4. To serve, place the salad on the table, drizzle with the dressing and place on chilled plates with sprigs of cardamom as a garnish.

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