My Daughters and I Had A Great Time Competing In Our First BBQ Throwdown Thank You Warren Waugh

We had an opportunity to face off against Peter Zappa and his handsome sons.  Peter is the owner and chef at a perennial top rated restaurant on Trip Advisor in our hometown of Gloucester MA.

Just a couple days ago Ciadlia Schwartz and Warren Waugh the incredibly generous and hardworking people who make the Bluefin Blowout Tournament happen reached out to see if we would like to participate in a BBQ throwdown during the tourney.  Proceeds would go to Alzheimer’s research, the disease that took my father at too early of an age.

I was so excited mostly because it was something I knew my daughters would love to do and we could do it together.  They watch cooking shows like chopped and make pretty elaborate dishes on their own all the time, even at their young ages of 11 and 13.

The challenge was that we would be given kobe beef and fresh tuna loins and we were tasked  with creating an ultimate burger with the kobe and an appetizer using the tuna.

Knowing we were going up against such a great chef in Peter and his sons with decades of experience I felt like we had to swing for the fences.  We had to wow.

Really wanting to do something that had never been done before, I didn’t want to copy someone else’s recipe from YouTube or a BBQ book.  I want it to be our own.

So Wednesday night after I got out of work my daughters and I went to the grocery store to find some tuna and ingredients to do a test run.  The Burger I knew I had down.  i knew exactly what we were going to do for the burger as I have utmost confidence in my burger game.  I’ll get to the burgers later.

It took us a long time to decide on our first test with the tuna and what we settled on was Atomic Tuna Turds.  I kinda had my heart set on these as I make Atomic Buffalo turds all the time and they are a big time crowd pleaser.

So I had Eloise practice cutting the jalapenos in half and trying to cut precisely down so there’d still be a little of the stem attached on each half.  Madeline mixed cream cheese and sriracha and filled the jalapeno half, then placed a strip of salmon on top (there wasn’t any fresh tuna at the store), next we wrapped with bacon and added a dash of BBQ rub.  Kate partially cooked the bacon before we wrapped the turd because we wanted the bacon to crisp up quickly so that the tuna would stay very rare inside.  If we didn’t partially cook the bacon beforehand it would have taken too long to brown up and the tuna would have been cooked through.   Once cooked the girls mixed sriracha and mayo and put it in a condiment dispenser to drizzle over the top almost like a chocolatier would do on a truffle.

Here was our result before the drizzle-

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They were delicious.  Super delicious.  But you could barely taste the fish and we’ve watched enough episodes of chopped to know that you could get axed if the main ingredient that you’re supposed to use isn’t the star of the dish.  at this point it was 8:30 PM.  I had to get up at 3:30AM to get to work and we still needed to clean up the kitchen.

I couldn’t sleep.  I didn’t want to let the girls down.  I thought that it would be fun to be able to announce that we were making Atomic Tuna Turds and play around with that, and wow the judges.  But the fish was not pronounced enough in the dish.  We could execute it, the girls crushed their prep time.  So all morning long on Thursday I was wracking my brain, trying to think of something else and contemplating just going with the turds.  If we went with the turds it still would have had huge visual and taste impact and what would be the shame in losing to such and awesome famous chef like Peter Zappa?

Then it hit me.  I had done bacon weaved phatty before which is sausage meat stuffed with cheese and whatever else you’d like enclosed in a bacon weave.  Also bacon weave encrusted grilled cheese sandwiches.

Why not bacon weave encrusted tuna?  I didn’t have the girls again til Friday night but I sent them with their mom to the grocery store to buy some bacon and practice bacon weaving.   They sent me pictures and had the process down pat but I had concerns about precooking the bacon and still having it be pliable enough to bend to wrap around the tuna.  Purchasing more bacon and tuna I tried another test run.  Kate partially cooked the bacon for me while I fired up the small Weber Go Anywhere.  It wasn’t just going to be the tuna inside.  i kept think what did my favorite tuna dishes have, tuna and avocado!  bamm!  I originally thought we would use soy sauce on the side as a dipping sauce but after consulting my friends Susan Lipsett and Erik Lorden, they both advised  my against that as there would already be a ton of salt from the bacon.  So I found a wasabi dipping sauce that Kate whipped up that wouldn’t be so over the top salty-

  • 2 cup mayonnaise
  • 8 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 4 teaspoons wasabi paste or powder

The Weber Go-Anywhere has 160 square inches of cooking space and we needed to cook these offset the coals so the pieces of tuna were cut about three inches square and figured on a three by three bacon weave.

Here was the test run (in the video it doesn’t show the cracked black pepper on the avocado before we placed the tuna but it’s on there)-

I made the video to show the girls what they were going to be doing while I was cooking the burgers.

A couple of notes from the test run-

I did the test run using a 4×4 bacon weave, and determined that 3×3 would be sufficient.

When cutting something like you need to use a flat cutting board so you can make a nice long crisp cut.  Cutting it on the plate that is receded in the center did not allow that long flat cut.  we would need to bring the big butcher block.

I emailed the video to Eloise so she could envision it and we discussed the procedures and made note that the cracked black pepper needed to be put on after the avocado was placed and before the tuna was placed.  Madeline had a million questions and wanted to make sure she had everything down pat.

Now for the burgers which would be my responsibility.

I knew we would start with Brioche rolls.   They are the best for burgers IMO.  my good friend Erik Lorden provided me with the brioche rolls, hamburger spikes and wasabi paste for our Tuna appetizer dipping sauce.  Kate procured all the groceries while I was at work.  I had a 45 minute break in the morning and I raced home to pack up the car with the ton of stuff we needed to get to Cape Ann Marina.

Here’s the list-

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Thankfully for the past two weeks I’ve been on a burger tear.  Just last week I researched ultimate burgers for hours on YouTube.  So we’ve established we’d go with brioche rolls, next we’d slather sriracha mayo on the insides of the rolls and  put them on the grill offset the griddle to toast them up.  Eloise came up with a great idea to slather butter on top of the rolls to make them even more decadent.

So each burger would consist of two kobe beef smash burgers caramelized up and topped with Orange american cheese melted on. Here’s the construction-

  • Top Bun Slathered On Top With Butter On Bottom with Sriracha Mayo
  • Sauteed Onions
  • Top Kobe Beef Smash Burger Patty covered With Melted Orange American Cheese
  • Two Slices Of Thin Cut Spicy Pickles
  • Bottom Kobe Beef Smash Burger Patty covered With Melted Orange American Cheese
  • Bibb Lettuce
  • Bottom Bun Slathered and Grilled With Sriracha Mayo

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Here’s the girls working together like rockstar chefs!  We had the discussion before about how we want to win obviously but it was all about enjoying the experience and having fun.  Most importantly that if anything went sideways to absolutely under no circumstances were they to criticize each other, only encourage.  If we stay together and have fun it’s going to be a win anyway.  Also I told them that going up against Peter Zappa who had that much experience cooking under pressure no one would expect us to win so lets just swing for the fences and relish the underdog role.

As it turns out they were flawless.  I didn’t have to look over my shoulder once, they just flat out executed everything we went over.  I know they get sick of me telling them how proud of them I am and they’re so great but this was next level happy dad stuff. 🙂

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Peter and his sons did a great job as well and they were so fun to cook alongside.  They are a beautiful classy family and an incredible asset to the Gloucester community.  As I’ve said from the beginning when I found out we were competing with them, there’s a reason The Causeway is routinely ranked so highly on Trip Advisor.  They know how to treat people and they produce excellent food, year in and year out.

In the end the judges consisting of Warren Waugh whose Waugh Auto Group Puts On The Bluefin Blowout, Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken, Karen Hanson of By The Sea Sotheby’s International Real Estate and One Of The Funniest men On the Planet Jeff Wilkes from Glasstech who bid to be the fourth judge (the money of which went to Alzheimer’s research).

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Bridgette Mathews photo

It ended up a tie.  The Mayor who I love proclaimed-  “It better not be spicy because I don’t do spice>”  (which is bananas if you’re judging a BBQ competition)  but we walked out with a tie and a victory in that we got to spend time with the beautiful Zappa family and cook alongside our children and raise money for a cause near and dear to my heart- Alzheimer’s research.  We’d like to thank my beautiful wife Kate, my sister and mother, Erik Lorden, Susan Lipsett, Cidalia Schwartz, Nichole Schrafft, The Judges, the Zappas, all our friends that came out to support us (and buy us drinks)  and especially Warren Waugh who does an incredible amount not only for Alzheimer’s research but also our community.

As a prize Warren and Anthony Caturano from Tonno will be hosting us for dinner at Warren’s beautiful home on Mussel Point.

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Panko Encrusted Merluzzi On The @WeberGrills Performer

Very simple. Scale, de-head,de-head,clean out the guts. Pat dry. Coat with EVOO. Roll in panko.

Set up the grill for high indirect heat. 

Let grill heat up and place merluzzi offset the coal. Cook for about 35-40 minutes or untill crumbs are golden brown and fish is flakey.

Live Smoke: Mackerel On The @WeberGrills Kettle at www.northeastbbq.com

7:20AM  Cleaned the mackerel by head and gutting them and then making cuts every 3/4 of an inch down each side of the fish so the marinade will penetrate.

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Next patted them dry with paper towels and placed them in my go-to fish marinade-

soy/ginger/sesame seed/red pepper flakes.

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I’ll let them sit in the marinade til 9:30 or so.  Check back around 10 for the next update!

9:45 AM

Changed plans and opted for the Kettle as it was such a small cook.  Set up the kettle for the snake method (arrange a fuse of coals around the perimeter so the coals act as a fuse with only so many coals going at once) looking for 225-250 degree grate temps.

Once it hit 200 I shut down the bottom vent to 3/4 closed and left the top vent wide open.

Placed the mackerel on offset of the coals.

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Setting up the @webergrills kettle to smoke up some whiting courtesy of Danny Murphy Aboard The F/V Bantry Bay 

First deheaded,  gutted and scaled the whiting.  Then gave them a bath in some soy/sesame/ginger/red pepper flake marinade for about an hour.

Then took them out of the marinade and placed them on the grill  grates to dry for an hour or so while getting the coals set up for smoking using the snake method on the Weber Kettle.

When the temps on the Kettle reached 190 I placed the marinade and dryer whiting on.

Looking to bring them up to about 140 degrees internal temp. Check back in to see the results!

After 45 minutes I pulled off a small one and OMG!

Fillet falls right off the bone

I’d say that was a success!

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Live Smoke- Tuna Steaks On The @WeberGrills Smokey Mountain Smoker 

5:29AM 6/28/16

One of my fishermen was kind enough to donate some tuna to the cause. -A simple soy/sesame/red pepper flake marinade overnight and now they are placed on the grates to dry for an hour or two.


7:00AM

Light eight briquettes in the chimney and set up the charcoal basket in the smoker using the snake method with cherry chips and mesquite chunks.  The charcoal will slowly work its way around not having the entire basket of charcoal going at once will help keep the temps down.  We are looking to smoke around 250 degrees.

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The tuna is placed with small gaps in between so the smoke can come on up through hitting each piece of tuna.  The Maverick 732 grate probe is placed and another probe for the internal temp of the tuna.  We will look to bring the internal temp on the tuna to about 135 F.

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8:35AM

130 degrees internal temp,  Pulled the steaks off.

Done!

Smoked #Bluefin #Tuna Dip Using Helen’s Famous Smoked Fish Dip Recipe

Found This Recipe here The recipe was written by Tommy Thompson From Florida Sportsman Magazine and Helen is his mom.

Here are the pictures and the method that I used following Tommy’s mom Helen’s recipe in pictures-

Here’s how I smoked the tuna-

Live Smoke at www.northeastbbq.com Soy/Ginger/Yellow Cayenne Pepper Marinated Tuna Steaks

They were put in the fridge overnight and here’s a good size bluefin tuna steak that I’ll be using-

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I broke the tuna into 3/4 inch chunks because I figured that when I mixed all the ingredients together it would break it down a little more and I didn’t want it to be a mousse, I wanted every dip of a cracker to have a decent amount of solid smoked tuna on it.

2 cups of broken up smoked tuna chunks

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1/4 cup chopped scallions

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I ended up chopping up 5 sweet baby gherkins

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The juice lemon of one lemon and a 1/2 cup of mayo

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I added 1.5 Tablespoon of tabasco.  Also salt and crushed black pepper to taste.

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Mix it up and let it chill for an hour or more.

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It was a monster hit for the boys on the HomieCast which we taped last night

This recipe was easy to make, didn’t include too many crazy hard to find ingredients and was absolutely delicious.  With the nice kick of the salt and Tabasco it went perfectly well with some nice cold beer.  I will be making more for Thanksgiving!

You can get smoked fish all the time at Connolly Seafood in Gloucester MA to use if you’re not all about that smoking/BBQ lifestyle.

Thank you Tommy Thompson for sharing your mom’s recipe.

Live Smoke at www.northeastbbq.com Soy/Ginger/Yellow Cayenne Pepper Marinated Tuna Steaks

Follow along this morning at www.northeastbbq.com

Thanks to skipper Brian Higgins aboard the F/V Toby Ann we’ve got some beautiful tuna steaks to smoke up today.
Last night I trimmed them up and put out my ingredients for the overnight marinade and added two more ingredients: Fresh Ginger which I’d grate into the bowl and finely chopped up yellow Cayenne Pepper.
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The marinade consisted of-

A Bottle of Veri Veri Teriyaki Marinade and Sauce

A Turn In the Bowl of Chili Oil and Japanese Sesame Oil

A Very Generous Amount of Crushed Red Pepper Flakes (I like stuff spicy)

A Half a Tablespoon of Granulated Garlic

Tablespoon of Freshly Grated Ginger

I Finely Chopped  Yellow Cayenne Pepper

A Cup Of Light Brown Sugar

Here’s one of teh tuna steaks before i put them to bed sealed in Ziploc bags overnight.

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This morning virtually all of the liquid of the marinade got sucked up by the tuna and it turns the tuna almost candied with the soy and the brown sugar getting all sucked up inside the flesh.

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5:15 AM Lay out the tuna on the Weber Smokey Mountain racks to dry.

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6:45AM Set up the smoker using the snake method apple wood chunks and cherry wood chips dispersed along the fuse.

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Lit 8 briquettes in the chimney and dumped them onto the left hand side of the charcoal fuse.

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8:00AM Update: Tuna steaks are cranking along but pit temps aren’t climbing the way it was the last time I smoked tuna.  Pit temp 165 at grate level one hour into the smoke. I opened the feeder door to let some air in and added some cherry chips to stoke the coals a bit.

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9:00AM Update:

Tuna internal temp 150 degrees and they come off.  I take the tuna steaks off and place them on the cool grates of the Weber kettle to dry.

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9:45 Tuna dried and ready to package: