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Sebastian Inlet Clams BBLT (Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, and Basil)

Winning Recipe: Great American Seafood Cook-Off

Sebastian Inlet Clams BBLT (Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, and Basil
Yield: Serves 6

Fish Stock (you can substitute canned clam broth for this if necessary):
• 1 pound halibut fish bones
• 1 rib celery
• 1 onion
• pinch of salt
• 1 quart water

Rinse the fish bones clean and place them in a pot with the chopped celery and onion. Cover the bones with the water and salt. Bring the stock to a boil and turn it down to simmer for 40 minutes. Let it rest for 20 minutes before straining. Cool and refrigerate.

Tomato Sauce:
• 6 large red tomatoes
• 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
• 1 tablespoon minced Calabrese peppers
• 2 minced shallots
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 tablespoons reserved bacon fat

Halve, seed, and grate the flesh of the tomatoes and discard the skin. Sauté the garlic, peppers, and shallots with the olive oil and bacon fat, and add in the tomato. Cook the mixture until it becomes thick. Refrigerate until needed.

• 1/4 pound double-smoked bacon (Chef Max uses Benton's Family Farm)

Over a medium heat, render off the bacon 75 percent of the way (meaning don't cook it until all the fat is released) then reserve the bacon pieces separate from the fat.

Basil Bubbles:
• 2 cups basil leaves (stems removed)
• 1/4 cup reserved hot fish stock

Plunge the basil leaves in a small pot of boiling water to shock them for 20 seconds, and then transfer them to a bowl of ice water to cool them down. In a blender, combine the hot fish stock and the blanched basil and blend until smooth. Strain through a fine mesh strainer, and scoop the bubbles from the top and serve on the clams.

Steaming the Clams:
• 6 dozen littleneck clams
• 2 tablespoons garlic
• 1/2 bottle white wine
• 1 quart fish stock
• 1/2 pound butter
• 1 pint cherry tomatoes (peeled of their skin)
• 4 tablespoons basil chiffanade
• 2 lemons
• salt

Clean the clams and discard any open dead ones. In a large pot, sauté the garlic with four tablespoons of the butter, and add the clams and tomato sauce and cook for 2 minutes. Deglaze with the white wine and add in the fish stock as well. Cover the clams until they open, and scoop equal portions of them into 6 bowls. Reduce the sauce by half and add the rest of the butter, cherry tomatoes, and basil. Lightly season with salt and add the lemon juice. 

Ready to Serve:
• 1 ciabatta bread loaf (cut in 6 equal lengthwise portions)
• 6 each baby romaine lettuce heads
• 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 2 tablespoons lemon juice
• 24 micro red romaine leaves (optional) tossed in a bit of olive oil and lemon juice salt and pepper

Trim the ciabatta bread to match the shape of the serving vessel. Brush the ciabatta bread with two tablespoons of the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. In a mixing bowl, toss the romaine with the remaining olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and fresh ground pepper. On a hot grill, mark the bread and romaine for 45 seconds on each side, then reserve.

In a large bowl-style plate, place the grilled bread down first and top with the wilted romaine. Scatter the clams on and around the bread. Spoon the tomato broth from the clams all over the dish like a shallow soup. Scatter some of the crispy bacon around and some of the micro romaine as a garnish. Ladle a large spoon of the basil bubbles over the clams right before serving.



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