Make Snoop Dogg’s Favorite BBQ Chicken Cobb Salad
Jess Damuck’s book of salads includes lessons from her childhood and career mentor, Martha Stewart.
You could say chef Jess Damuck has always been a freak for salads. As a young girl growing up on Shelter Island, she was surrounded by farms and industries that depended on the seasons. Her neighbor was a commercial fisherman, who would pop over for fresh bay scallops and Damuck could often be found in her mom and grandfather’s gardens.
“My grandpa was Sicilian and really into his tomatoes,” she remembers. “I loved eating raw vegetables in the garden and understanding how simple it can be. A salad can be just tomatoes with olive oil and salt.”
Damuck eventually went to college for pre-med but realized that, after all, food was still truly her passion. She enrolled in classes at the French Culinary Institute in New York City, worked at restaurants, and landed an externship doing recipe testing at Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food. She ended up working for the lifestyle mogul in some capacity for the next 10 years.
“Going into the Martha Stewart world, truly everything became salads,” she quips. “Everyone that works at Martha has obsessive personalities—we’re clean freaks, we’re salad freaks. We’re just obsessed with everything.”
So it’s no wonder that Damuck is on the heels of releasing her first cookbook, aptly titled Salad Freak, on March 29. The book fittingly has an intro from Stewart herself, advises home cooks on the best salad essentials to keep in their pantry, and provides recipes for hearty and unique produce combinations that firmly cement salad as a main dish rather than a side.
“When people think of salads, they think of four cups of kale that’s not massaged properly,” Damuck says. “And that’s hard to eat—even for someone who’s so into salads. I’m coming up with menus where the main course is the salad that will leave you very satisfied. They’re basically deconstructed sandwiches.”
In fact, one of her favorite salad recipes is literally that, inspired by the renowned Scuttluebutt Sandwich at now-closed Saltie in Brooklyn. What was a mass of pickled beets, egg yolk, capers, olives, and creamy feta on spongy focaccia is now a colorful, herby salad filled with vegetables and focaccia croutons—perfect for summer picnics.
The book divides its salads into seasons, according to when the produce is most fresh. And every recipe needed to pass Damuck’s litmus test for salads: there had to be elements of brightness, a variety of textures, and every green needed to be cleaned and dried.
“Brightness is essential in a salad,” she says. “You want a pinch in the back of your cheeks when you eat it. Using citrus zest in addition to juice and expanding your vinegar collection so you can make your own vinaigrettes at home are easy ways to get there.”
As for texture, Damuck uses a tip from her mentor Martha and keeps nuts and seeds in the freezer to always have them on hand (“everyone thinks I’m crazy,” she laughs). This adds a much-needed crunch to tender greens. The greens themselves are important, of course, and the key is to make sure they are completely dry—a salad spinner goes a long way—so the dressing really sticks.
Damuck also received salad advice from none other than Stewart’s buddy, Snoop Dogg, who helped her conceive of the recipe for the book’s BBQ Chicken Cobb Salad. The three of them were working in the kitchen when the topic of her book came up.
“Martha was bragging about my book and Snoop said, ‘A book of salads? That’s what I need,’” Damuck remembers. “He told me a cobb is his favorite thing since it has eggs and bacon and all the good stuff. He also really wanted blue corn tortilla strips in there, which adds such a great flavor and texture. Everything he adds at the last minute is totally genius.”
Before cooking with Snoop, Damuck meticulously laid bacon strips on a sheet pan, but after watching him cook the crispiest bacon by just throwing it in a pan and stirring it with a spoon, her mind was forever changed. And, she advises, if you can make the blue corn tortilla strips yourself, all the better, but store-bought will do just fine. Lastly, they had recently made Snoop’s recipe for BBQ chicken wings together, so that became the added protein.
“The BBQ chicken is prepared just how Snoop does it and the whole thing turned out amazing,” she says. “If both Martha and Snoop are behind something, there’s no way it can be bad.”
More than anything, Damuck is hoping her cookbook can expand and change the minds of her readers—encouraging them to visit the farmers’ market, enroll in a CSA delivery, or even start to grow food themselves.
“I know it’s unrealistic to say that every time you cook it will be fresh and seasonal, but there are ways to start small,” she says. “Plant some herbs on your windowsill and make some of these salads that take 10 minutes to throw together. I try to view cooking as a self-care moment, since nourishment through food is one of the biggest ways you can take care of yourself.”
Snoop’s BBQ Chicken Cobb Salad With All The Good Stuff
• 3 heads Little Gem lettuce (or baby romaine)
• 1 pint cherry tomatoes
• 1 avocado
• 2 Persian cucumbers
• Fresh chives
• 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
• ½ pound bacon, cooked Snoop-style
• 2 to 4 large eggs
• 2 ounces blue cheese
• 1 Garlicky Buttermilk Ranch Dressing (see below)
• 2 teaspoons Lawry’s Seasoning Salt
• ½ teaspoon garlic powder
• ½ teaspoon chili powder
• ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 1 cup Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce
• Neutral oil, for frying
• 4 small corn tortillas (blue if you can find them; store-bought strips are also fine!)
• Kosher salt
Make the rub:
1. In a small bowl, mix together 2 teaspoons of Lawry’s, teaspoon garlic powder, teaspoon chili powder, teaspoon cayenne, and teaspoon black pepper.
2. Coat the chicken breasts with the rub and let them sit for 15 minutes or, refrigerated, up to overnight.
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. Get a medium pot of water boiling. Prepare an ice bath.
3. Place the coated chicken breasts on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet, and with a silicone brush, coat the chicken with barbecue sauce. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the chicken reaches 165°F on an instant-read thermometer.
4. Meanwhile, add 2-4 eggs to the boiling water. Cook for 10 minutes. Transfer to the ice bath. Wipe out and dry the saucepan completely; you’ll use it to fry your tortilla strips.
5. Add ½ inch oil to the saucepan. Cut 4 tortillas into thin ½-inch strips. Once the oil has reached about 350°F, or it bubbles up when you drop a strip in it, fry the tortilla strips. Fry the strips until golden brown, about 1 minute, and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Season with salt.
6. Separate the leaves of 3 heads of lettuce and tear them into bite-size pieces; wash and spin dry. Cut 1 pint cherry tomatoes in half. Halve, pit, and peel 1 avocado and cut into eighths.
7. Thinly slice 2 Persian cucumbers and slice some chives.
8. Arrange the lettuce on a serving platter. Arrange the tomatoes, cucumbers, and avocado on the serving platter. Peel the eggs, cut them into quarters, and arrange on the plate.
9. Crumble pound Snoop-style bacon and sprinkle evenly over
the salad. Crumble 2 ounces blue cheese and sprinkle it evenly over everything.
10. Slice the chicken on a diagonal and transfer to the top of the salad.
11. Drizzle with the dressing and sprinkle with the chives, tortilla strips, and black pepper.
Garlicky Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
Yield: ½ cup
• ¼ cup plus two tablespoons mayonnaise
• ¼ cup buttermilk
• 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
• Pinch garlic powder
• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Put all of the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine. The dressing keeps for about 1 week in the fridge.
Recipe excerpt from the new book Salad Freak: Recipes to Feed a Healthy Obsession by Jess Damuck, published by Abrams. Text © 2022 by Jess Damuck. Photography by Linda Pugliese.