The Story of (and the recipe for) The Amazing Stacked Cobb Salad


The Story of (and the recipe for) the Amazing Stacked Cobb Salad

As the More is More Mom®, I’m all about…….more amazing, over the top, culinary excellence and artistry! Next week marks the annual celebration of Catholic Schools Week, where we celebrate our teachers and community. While my children have both moved on from Our Lady of Perpetual Donations Grammar School, I wanted to share with you a story from my 13th and final year; the story of the Amazing Stacked Cobb Salad…….

You may also enjoy my first embarrassing foray into posting a You Tube video. If you listen closely, you can hear my Wrigley chomping on a bone in the background. I gave it to him so he would stop barking at and nudging my friend Julia as she videotaped my endeavor. Chuck would call this a classic Lucy and Ethel moment:

   http://www.youtube.com/user/moreismoremom#p/a/u/0/UeE8vfLR2CY

Room Mom’s Log, January, 2010:

Our eighth grade class has many fun things planned to commemorate our dedication to academic excellence and show our appreciation to our amazing and devoted teachers. The week started off with flowers for the teachers and doughnuts for the students. There will be hot beverages and pastries for the teachers to begin their day and the week will culminate in dessert for the whole class. As a Room Parent, today was my day. I brought lunch. As you know, I believe that every event-big or small-should be celebrated. Showing appreciation for our incredible teachers is really kind of a big thing, as their commitment shapes the minds and spirits of our children. That my friend is an enormous gift, and there is not a gesture grand enough to express our gratitude to those that touch the lives of our babies. Besides, I live for opportunities to make things special. It totally beats cleaning the bathroom!

Enter the Stacked Cobb Salad.

I am a huge believer in planning ahead, rarely am I a fly by the seat of her pants kind of a gal. My preference for everything, and in entertaining in particular, is to prep as much as humanly possible in advance.
Serves  4

Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette:

Combine:

¾ cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp minced garlic (I always use way more!)
1 Tbsp minced shallot (twice as much at least!)
1 Tbsp chopped mixed fresh herbs (basil, oregano, thyme…….the more the better!)
2 tsp salt (I love sea salt)
1 tsp freshly ground pepper (I prefer cracked black pepper for a little kick)

Toss in a food processor or blender.

Puree on low speed and slowly add 2 ½ cups of olive oil until well incorporated.

Store in the refrigerator in an air tight container.

 You want the dressing to be thick, so you will make it nice and creamy.

The recipe calls for a ½ cup of the Balsamic Vinaigrette and ½ cup of mayonnaise whisked together. I always think you need more, so I use about ¾ of the Balsamic Vinaigrette and eyeball it when I add the mayo to make a nice creamy consistency.

Meat:

 Here’s the thing, there are so many variations that you can incorporate to make this salad customized to your own taste and budget.

For lobster meat:
• 2 sliced lemons
• 2 dried bay leaves
• 2 tablespoons black peppercorn
• ¼ cup salt
• 3-4 pounds lobster (live….I’m way too squeamish), I use lobster tails and figure one per person. If your budget permits, for a serving of 4, I would use 5 tails… a little more is always better.
• Fill a stockpot with 6 quarts of cold water and add the lemons, bay leaves, peppercorns and salt. Cover and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes to flavor the poaching liquid. Add the lobster and cover the pot for about 10 minutes, or until the lobsters are bright red.
• Prepare an ice bath and submerge the lobster to stop the cooking process (so you don’t over cook the meat and it gets rubbery….complete waste of a beautiful lobster!). When cool enough to handle remove the meat from the shell and chop in to bite size chunks. I am all about being prepared ahead of time because I totally hate feeling anxious and stressed, so I do this a day in advance. I wrap the chopped lobster meat in paper towel to absorb and moisture, so the meat doesn’t get slimy and gross. I love paper towel and I especially like Bounty, the quicker picker upper. Store is a Ziploc baggie over night until ready to use.

This time around, however, I defrosted a bag of shrimp, cut off the tails, and chopped it into bite size pieces. As is my method (I have many methods and think in another life I might have been an efficiency expert. I know I was not Cleopatra or Joan of Arc. I was a worker of some sort. I may also have been a purveyor of food, home goods and cloth at a general store, but I’m not sure), I wrapped the bite size pieces in Bounty and sealed them in a Ziploc baggie over night.

You might also consider using a few grilled chicken breasts. The options are endless.

The Layers:

 Chopping and cooking…..get cracking

The recipe calls for 8 slices of thick cut bacon, but I think 16 is more like it (4 per person…I mean if you’re a meat eater, who doesn’t like bacon?). I like a smoked, maple, bacon personally. Fry it up in the pan, chop in to bite size pieces, wrap it in paper towel and store it in a baggie.

7 hard boiled eggs (I hate to be skimpy).

 Separate the whites from the yolks. Chop in to bite size pieces, wrap in paper towel and store each in separate baggies.

4 Haas avocados. Peel, remove the seeds, chop, wrap and store. You can certainly try drizzling with lemon juice to prevent from some browning. I don’t like to deal with a mess while I am preparing to entertain, so I can live with a little brown, it gets covered up in brown balsamic dressing anyway. I’m sorry Martha if I am being offensive, but I am one woman kitchen prep and clean up crew, so on occasion I must take a few shortcuts where my sensibilities will not be offended. I chop the avocado, wrap it in paper towel and store it all in a baggie.

4 (or more…personal preference) vine ripened tomatoes, cored, seeded and diced. I wrap tomatoes in a huge wad of paper towels because they are so darn watery, and no one likes a slimy tomato. Chop, wrap, store.

2 cups crumbled cheese. I hate blue cheese, so I substitute with feta because it is also a nice soft cheese, but use what you like.

If you don’t like all of these ingredients, choose what you do like. I have also incorporated diced cucumbers and carrots. C’est la vie!

Fancy lettuce

Rolls or crackers (I like to serve this with flatbread crackers)

Stacking:

You will need a tube type mold to stack the salad, so it stays vertical. The least expensive and simplest thing to do is to purchase a 15 ounce (or whatever is closest) can of generic soup (or be thrifty and use this item to make dinner, perhaps homemade chicken noodle soup), empty its contents, remove the label, remove the lid from both sides, and wash. Now you have a tube shaped mold! I have 8 empty cans for this recipe, as I have made it on several occasions. You really do need one mold per person because the layers needs time to stabilize and the dressing will bind the ingredients together in order for the stack to remain upright.

Because I will layer the salad earlier in the day, I may use a small bread plate, or even easier a paper plate (because I am all about being efficient, and you can easily toss the paper plate in the trash when you are in the frenzy of putting out your masterpiece, and have one less plate to clean up per person).

Place the mold on the plate.

For each individual serving:
• Divide the tomatoes equally amongst the 4 cans and arrange on the bottom.
• Spoon approximately 1 tsp of dressing over this layer.
• Divide the egg whites equally amongst the 4 cans and arrange as the next layer.
• Spoon approximately 1 tsp of dressing over this layer.
• Divide the bacon equally amongst the 4 cans and arrange as the next layer.
• Spoon approximately 1 tsp of dressing over this layer.
• Divide the egg yolks equally amongst the 4 cans and arrange as the next layer.
• Spoon approximately 1 tsp of dressing over this layer.
• Divide the cheese equally amongst the 4 cans and arrange as the next layer.
• Spoon approximately 1 tsp of dressing over this layer.
• Divide the avocado equally amongst the 4 cans and arrange as the next layer.
• Spoon approximately 1 tsp of dressing over this layer.
• Top with the meat of your choice; lobster, shrimp, crab, chicken…whatever makes you happy!
• I cover the can with plastic wrap and secure it with a rubber band while it is in the refrigerator.

6. When you are ready to serve your creation, simply add the lettuce in a circle around the plate, leaving a small flat surface for the can. Carefully slide the can off the paper or bread plate, and on to the dinner plate, and remove the plastic. Gently and slowly slide the can upward, revealing the stacked salad. With any luck it will remain intact. If some of it happen to fall over, not to worry, it will still be delicious!
7. Certainly serve extra dressing on the side (for people like me who only choke down veggies because there is an opportunity to savor tasty, flavorful salad dressing!).
8. I like to garnish with flatbread crackers. If you were brave and cooked a live lobster, then you could certainly, artfully arrange the antennae upright in the salad. You could also garnish with sprigs of tarragon.

As an aesthetic person, I think it is equally important to be surrounded by pretty things, satisfying my sense of sight, in addition to my sense of taste. Today I was serving lunch in the teacher’s lounge, so from my vast collection at home (I do believe that I mentioned that I collect these items in 20’s), I brought placemats, cloth napkins, napkins rings, chargers, dishes, flatware and real glassware. If you are taking the time to make something special, go the whole nine yards! Again, I am all about authenticity. Rather than serve water or soda (because the Board of Education takes this funny stance about consuming alcohol during the school day, on school property, while you are responsible for minors….details, details, details), I served a lovely sparkling pomegranate juice. Sparkly drinks always feel luxurious, even when they are alcohol free (but I avoid that whenever possible. If I’m going to consume the calories, I’d better get buzzed!).

I am so pleased to have had the chance to show Amanda’s teachers just how important I think the job they so lovingly devote themselves to, is to me. As a bonus, Chuck and I are having Stacked Shrimp Cobb Salad tonight for dinner while we watch American Idol. Yum

More teachers, more appreciation, more decadent and beautiful lunches………

The Amazing Stacked Cobb Salad

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