Prep the ingredients
Rinse the clams, discarding any that don't close tightly when tapped. Bundle each variety in a double layer of cheesecloth.
Rinse and scrub the mussels, pulling off any tough beards, and bundle the mussels in a double layer of cheesecloth.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat, and cook the potatoes until almost tender, about 5 minutes. Drain.
Build the fire and prep the grill
Start with a clean grill kettle, with all the air vents open. Using a chimney-style grill starter, light about a gallon of charcoal. When the coals are glowing evenly, dump them into the grill and spread them to form the first layer.
Next, add a layer of hardwood chunks, let them burn down until nearly reduced to coals, and then add another layer of hardwood. Depending on the type of wood, it takes about 15 to 25 minutes for each layer to burn down.
Add one more layer of charcoal to the fire. Once these coals are glowing briskly, spread the fire evenly, and put the grill's grid in place.
When 90% of the charcoal has turned either ashen white or luminous red, brush the chicken breasts with olive oil, season them with salt and pepper, and briefly grill them to create grill marks on each side (about 3 minutes per side).
Prick the sausages with a fork and grill briefly to brown, about 3 minutes. Set the chicken and sausages aside.
Crimp and fold the aluminum foil into a disk that's slightly smaller thanthe diameter of the grill. Be sure to leave about 2 inches around the perimeter of the disk so heat can circulate up and around the food.
Layer th e shellfish on the grill
Spread a 2-inch layer of seaweed on the foil disk, being careful to leave a 1-inch gap around the perimeter. Lay the lobsters on their backs on the seaweed bed, keeping them close together and taking up no more than one-third of the surface area of the seaweed. Put the clam and mussel bundles on the seaweed, opening side up, and flatten the bundles slightly. Quickly arrange the chicken, sausages, corn and potatoes around the shellfish as space allows. Cover the food with a 1-inch layer of seaweed, being careful to leave a 1-inch gap around the edge.
Cover the grill and leave the vents open. Cook the clambake for 25 minutes without opening the lid. While the clambake cooks, melt the butter and keep it warm for dipping.
Check for doneness and serve
Uncover the grill, tilting the lid away from you to avoid steam burns. With a pair of long tongs, peel back the seaweed to uncover one lobster. Look for a uniform red color and pull on one antenna near the mouth; if the lobster is cooked through, the antenna will detach easily. If the lobsters are done, check the clams and mussels: their shells will be fully opened when done. Cut the packages open with a pair of scissors. Check the chicken and sausages with an instant-read thermometer; it should read 160 to 165°F
Arrange the food on large platters, spoon the melted butter into individual serving dishes and let your guests help themselves.
nutrition information (per serving):
without dipping butter;
Photo: Mark Ferri