Ahi Tuna With Red Wine Sauce and the Baltimore Colts

Click on the pic to see the YouTube video

Click on the pic to see the YouTube video

Why don’t cannibals eat divorced people?

They’re bitter.

September 11, 1983.  The Baltimore Colts football team was scheduled to play the Denver Broncos.  The year before, 1982, the Colts had not won a game, and because they stunk so bad they got the first pick in the NFL draft the following year.

The Colts chose quarterback John Elway, from Stanford University.  Elway refused to play for the Colts.  He was even considering joining the New York Yankees baseball team rather than play football for the Colts.  So the Colts traded Elway to the Denver Broncos and in the second game of the 1983 season, the Broncos came to Baltimore to play the Colts at Memorial Stadium.

I had been a Baltimore Colts fan from day one. My uncle Oscar had season tickets from their very first game – the seats were in the mezzanine, right next to the press box.  Oscar played football in high school-he was good enough to be offered a full scholarship to college, but chose medicine instead. When the Colts came to Baltimore, Oscar bought the best seats. I went with him to as many games as I could. I knew all the players, their numbers, their statistics, their nicknames.

Lenny Moore, #24.  Gino Marchetti, #89.  Artie Donovan, #70.  Johnny Unitas, #19. Raymond Berry #82.

Slim Boy front and center

Slim Boy front and center

I loved football. When I was a kid, I played football in little league. I wasn’t offered any scholarships, but I loved playing. And I loved the Colts.

You can imagine how thrilled I was when the Colts called and asked my band to sing the national anthem for Elway’s first appearance in Baltimore.  The band was BootCamp; we’d been making a name for ourselves in the music biz. We had worked up a great acapella version of the “Star-Spangled Banner.” It was a show stoppa.  At parties, shows, concerts, weddings, funerals – all of a sudden, out of the blue we’d burst into the national anthem  It was a cheap way to get a standing ovation. But our four-part harmony rendition was quite stirring, if I may say so myself.

When we got to Memorial Stadium that Sunday, we were escorted through the Colts locker room, and into an underground tunnel that led to the field.  As we were coming to the end of the tunnel, we heard this rumbling…

The players, all suited up and breathing fire, were coming down the tunnel right behind us. We stood up against the wall and let them pass.  They were big, and they had a look in their eyes that was fierce. Like Gladiators getting ready to enter the Coliseum.

When they passed, we followed them out onto the field.  We walked up to the microphone. The announcer asked everyone to stand and remove their hats. Memorial Stadium got dead-quiet. Then he introduced us, “Ladies and Gentlemen, Baltimore’s own BootCamp!”

We sang our hearts out.  It was the thrill of a lifetime. Fifty-thousand people standing on their feet, cheering.  A standing ovation!  Of course, they had to stand because it was the national anthem; but I’m marking it down in my bio as “a standing ovation before a sellout crowd of 50,000.”

When we finished, we walked to the sidelines, and stood among the Colt players.   The Colts’ front office had given us field passes.  I’m sure when they gave them to us they weren’t thinking we’d stay on the field for the whole game, but there we were, standing on the sidelines with the players and coaches.

All the players and coaches were giving us funny looks.  I can’t blame them.  We were dressed like …well, it was the 1980s.  We looked like a cross between Duran Duran and Devo.  We had on as much eyeshadow over our eyes as the Colts had under theirs.

On the opening kick-off, I couldn’t see what was going on, but I could hear it.  The two teams charging down the field sounded like a stampede of wild horses.  When they hit each other, you could hear the crack of the helmets, the grunts and groans of the players.

When the special teams unit came over to the sidelines after the kick-off, it was something I’d never witnessed before.  The players were out of breath, wheezing and panting – fingers were broken, uniforms were muddy, noses were bloody.

Playing football is a brutal sport. Playing music is not.  Musicians don’t encounter a lot of violence.  Unless, they’re really, really bad.

The Baltimore fans were booing Elway mercilessly that day.  People from B-Mo were pissed off.  They weren’t afraid to be vocal about it.  John Elway had said he’d play anywhere but Baltimore, and we Baltimorons took it personally.

It would have been nice if the Colts had won.  But the Colts were pretty bad that day.  They lost, 17-10.  The newspaper ran a photo on the front page the next day.

Hit Man Howie Z was in it, back to the camera, walking off the field. 1983. It would be the Colts last season in Baltimore.

On March 29, 1984, at 2:00 AM, 15 Mayflower moving trucks arrived at the Baltimore Colts training complex.  Eight hours later, they were loaded up and heading to Indianapolis.

They took everything – the Colts’ name, the trophies, the memorabilia, the mascot, the uniforms.  All gone to Indianapolis.

The mayor of Indy had offered the owner of the Colts a 12 million dollar loan, a 4 million dollar training complex, and a new 77 million dollar stadium.

Let me make an analogy.  Your wife (spouse) meets someone new, a wife that you stood by through the good times and the bad.  This New Guy offers her a 12 million dollar loan, a 4 million dollar work-out room, and a 77 million dollar house.

And she takes it.  That’s OK, things didn’t work out, I can handle that. But did she really need to take all your stuff, too?  Your trophies, your memorabilia, your mounted deer head? No.  With all that money, she could have bought new stuff.

Did she have to take it all in the dark of night, at two in the morning, while you were sleeping? That’s harsh. But that’s what the Colts did.

When I heard the news about the Colts leaving town, I was pissed off; so much so, that I didn’t go to a football game, or follow the NFL for years.

I was bitter. Lots of folks in Baltimore were.

When the Baltimore Ravens came to town, Oscar got season tickets, great seats in the club section.  I resisted at first.  Then I gave in.  I went to my first Ravens game.  The guy sang the national anthem and it sent chills up and down my spine.  The crowd cheered, jets roared as they flew right over our heads, and Ray Lewis came out of the tunnel and did his dance while fireworks shot into the sky. The stadium went wild. It was thrilling.

I was hooked.  I was back in love! The Ravens went on to win the Super Bowl that year—2000.

It took me a while, but I had found a better wife.  She’s been great.  She won the Super Bowl again last year. What more could a husband ask for?

I’m not bitter anymore.  I’m better, not bitter.


What do you do with all that red wine left over from the Super Bowl Party? Make red wine sauce!

You can use this sauce on steak, chicken or ahi tuna steaks. You can grill them, or sear them. I seared.

I went to the grocery store not long ago and they had beautiful ahi tuna steaks for $8 a pound.  I bought two, and was wondering how to cook them.

I had done tuna with a red wine sauce before, but it wasn’t where I wanted it to be.  The sauce wasn’t right. It was bugging me.  It was keeping me up at night.  Then, around dawn, it dawned on me. Tomato paste!

The next time I made the sauce, I added a little tomato paste to the sauce to thicken it up and give it a little zip.  Then I added a little dried oregano to give it some zing.  Zip!  Zing!  It turned out great.

A few things before we get started – the tuna steaks I used were about an inch and a half thick.  I cooked them for 2 minutes per side over medium-high heat.  They turned out perfectly — the pepper/salt/sugar that I had sprinkled on top gave them a nice sear, and they were a beautifully pink on the inside.

Cooking times vary.  A thicker piece of fish takes longer.

Also, when you light your Cognac on fire, be careful, boys and girls.  Yes, the subsequent explosion of flame looks so cool and very dramatic, but have the fire department on the phone in one hand, and a garden hose in the other.

If you’re using this sauce on a steak or chicken, just cook or grill the steak as you normally do, and add a little sauce on top.

This is a bold sauce. Don’t use too much!


2 ahi tuna steaks, about a half pound (8 ounces) each

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped shallots

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

2 ounces of Cognac (about ¼ cup)

½ cup dry red wine

½ cup stock (I used beef)

½ teaspoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon tomato paste

Fresh ground black pepper

Kosher salt

Brown sugar or raw/turbinado sugar (you can use plain sugar in a pinch)

Here we go…

Rinse off your tuna steaks and pat dry with paper towels.

Let’s make the sauce.

In a small pan over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of butter, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

When the butter melts, add the shallots and the garlic.

Cook about 2 minutes until the shallots are clear and the garlic is golden.  Stir a few times.

Add the 2 ounces of Cognac.

Stand back, Jack!  Get a lighter, one with a long handle.  Light the Cognac on fire.  Be careful!  The flames will shoot up!

When the Cognac burns off, and the fire department has left…

Add the red wine and the beef stock.

Let it cook for 3 minutes while stirring.

Add the oregano, stir.

Add the tomato paste, stir for a minute or so.

Remove from heat.

The sauce is done, now let’s cook our tuna.

Rinse the ahi tuna steaks and pat ‘em dry with paper towels.

Add a little freshly cracked black pepper, a little kosher salt and a sprinkle of turbinado or brown sugar on top of each steak.

Get a sauté pan; put it over medium-high heat.

Add 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan.

When the butter starts to brown, add the tuna, peppered/salted/sugared side down.

Add a LITTLE SPRINKLE of fresh cracked black pepper, kosher salt, and turbinado sugar to the other side.

Cook for 2 minutes, turn over with tongs. Swirl the butter and olive oil around in the bottom of the pan, so you’re not placing the ahi tuna in a dry pan.

Cook for 2 minutes on the other side.

Give it a slice, see if it’s done to your liking.  If it is, dish it up. Keep in mind, the fish will keep cooking, even though you’ve taken it out of the pan. Err on the side of rare.

Put some greens on a plate with a few grape tomatoes, place the tuna on top, drizzle just a little red wine sauce over each piece, and…