Dean James Max Wins Crown in Great American Seafood Cook-Off With Clams BBLT

We told you about Chef Dean Max of 3030 Ocean in Fort Lauderdale competing this past weekend in the Great American Seafood Cook-Off in NOLA. NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service sponsored the seventh-annual contest,

held again in New Orleans.

We now present you with his winning recipe; he brings the crown to Florida for the second time since the contest has been held, snatching it from New Orleans chef Tory McPhail of Commander's Palace.

Max's dish, Sebastian Inlet Clams BBLT (bacon, basil, lettuce, and tomato), beat out dishes such as Gulf Shrimp Two Way and North Atlantic Crab Cakes with Citrus Aioli and a seafood medley called Jersey Coast. Fourteen other seafood chefs (including those from landlocked Idaho and West Virginia) competed.

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

Yield: 6 servings

To make fish stock: (clam broth may be substituted)

1 pound halibut fish bones

1 rib celery, chopped

1 onion, peeled, sliced

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. Use hot, or cool and refrigerate or

freeze. Reheat before use.

For bacon:

¼ pound double-smoked bacon (we use Benton's Family Farm)

Over a medium heat, render off the bacon three-quarters of the way

(don't cook it until all the fat is rendered); reserve the bacon pieces

separate from the fat.

For tomato sauce:

6 large red tomatoes

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 tablespoon minced Calabrese (Italian) peppers
 2 minced shallot

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 and shallots with the olive oil and bacon fat,

and add the tomato. Cook the mixture until it becomes thick.

Refrigerate until needed.

Steaming the clams:

6 dozen littleneck clams

2 tablespoons garlic

1 cup (2 sticks) butter

½ bottle white wine

1 quart fish stock

1 pint cherry tomatoes (peeled of their skin)

4 tablespoons basil, chiffonade cut

Salt to taste

2 lemons, juiced

Clean the clams and discard any open 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 in to 6 bowls. Reduce the sauce by half and

add remaining butter, cherry tomatoes, and basil. Lightly season with

salt and add the lemon juice.

To make basil bubbles:

2 cups basil leaves (stems removed)

¼ 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.

To serve:
1 ciabatta bread loaf (cut in six equal lengthwise portions)

6 baby romaine lettuce heads, cleaned

4 tablespoons virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

24 micro red romaine leaves (optional), tossed in a bit of olive oil

and lemon juice

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


On a hot grill, mark the bread and romaine for 45 seconds

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