Grilled Grouper Rolls...aka Fighting the Leftover Battle

Confession - I’m incapable of cooking the appropriate amount of food for two people. Nine times out of ten when I’m making dinner for just Harper and myself I serve up enough food for a family of four...or six. As a result our fridge is almost constantly jammed full of leftovers.

Dinner for four...for two, oops.

Dinner for four...for two, oops.

A while back I took stock of our leftover situation and spent some time paying attention to how much food ended up in the rubbish instead of on the plate. It wasn’t pretty y’all. I was ashamed, frankly, and set about trying to figure out ways to continue the style of cooking I felt most comfortable with (I’m stubborn, *insert shrug emoji here*) while also not letting the leftovers go to waste.

I came up with a few go-to recipes pretty quickly. Leftovers were folded into fried rice or added to ramen almost weekly. Extra meat sauce from spaghetti got ladled atop omelets the next morning. Pots of stock using leftover meats and veggies could be found bubbling away on our stove most days. (My stock addiction got to the point where friends would give us leftover shrimp shells or chicken bones and our chest freezer had enough stock to make soup for a small army.)

Shrimp stock, anyone?

Shrimp stock, anyone?

But as we got into summer I found it harder and harder to come up with new and exciting ways to cook with leftovers. The fresh, vibrant flavors of the warmer months don’t always lend themselves to re-use. And there is a limit to how much fried rice one person should legally be able to consume.

This past week we’ve been down at the beach for the Fourth of July holiday and as is wont to happen I ended up grilling a Saturday night meal for me and Harper that left us with an entire platter full of leftovers. Sunday rolled around and, as we cleaned the house and packed to get ready to head back to Durham, I found myself despairing the thought of tossing nearly a pound of gorgeous grilled grouper into the trash.

Grilled grouper, shrimp skewers, and corn...again for only two people. I have a problem.

Grilled grouper, shrimp skewers, and corn...again for only two people. I have a problem.

Inspiration hit in the form of two lonely hot dog buns that hadn’t been used earlier that week. Grouper rolls! Of course! I also had leftover cilantro, leftover red onion, and leftover compound butter from our corn earlier in the week. It took about 15 minutes from inspiration to having lunch on the table, comprised almost completely of leftovers.

Maybe in order to keep my leftovers under control this summer I need to think outside the fried rice and ramen realm. Maybe if I just keep an open-mind and look to what I have on hand for inspiration, I’ll be on a roll. (See what I did there?)

Grilled Grouper Roll!

Grilled Grouper Roll!

This Grouper Roll is loosely based on a lobster roll. It’s done Connecticut-style (meaning with melted butter instead of mayonnaise), and is served in a toasted top-split bun. In my opinion Connecticut-style is far superior to Maine-style and I will fight anyone who tells me side-split buns are better. If you disagree with me I encourage you to just try this out and I am sorry that you are burdened with such awful opinions.

A few final notes. First, while I made this with grilled grouper, it can easily be made with any firm fish such as haddock, sheepshead, halibut, sea bass, or even swordfish and albacore tuna. Darker fish such as salmon or bluefin and yellowfin tuna might actually lend themselves better to a mayonnaise based roll.

Second, while I made this almost completely with leftovers it can very easily be made fresh. Grill your fish until it’s cooked medium-well and then set aside to cool for a few minutes while you assemble the rest of the ingredients.

Lastly, the recipe for the compound butter makes ½ cup of the butter while the recipe only needs two tablespoons. Go ahead and make the full recipe - this stuff is amazing on corn on the cob, over roasted potatoes, or swirled into sauteed veggies. It will keep in the fridge for about two weeks.

Grilled Grouper Rolls

makes 4 rolls

Ingredients (rolls)

  • 1 lb grilled grouper or other firm white fish
  • 2 Tbsp Lime-Cilantro compound butter *recipe follows
  • 2 Tbsp minced red onion
  • 1 Tbsp minced cilantro
  • 4 top-split hotdog rolls
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • Tabasco (if desired)

Ingredients (compound butter)

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • zest of 1 medium lime
  • 1 Tbsp minced cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt


  1. Make the compound butter. Put the butter in a small bowl and using the back of a fork mix in the lime zest, cilantro, and salt. Scoop the butter onto a sheet of plastic wrap and roll into a log, twisting each end to seal. Refrigerate until ready to use. (The butter will keep in the fridge for about two weeks or in the freezer for a month.)
  2. Toast the buns. Heat a gas grill  on medium or stovetop grill-pan on medium-high heat. Gently open the buns as wide as you can without tearing the apart and grill them, cut side down, until they have started to brown and char. Remove and set aside.
  3. Melt two tablespoons of the compound butter in a microwave safe bowl or in a pan on the stovetop. Set aside. If your leftover fish is cold, zap it in the microwave in short 10 second bursts until it has warmed up a bit. It doesn't need to be hot. Cut the fish into bite-sized pieces and put in a large mixing bowl.
  4. Add the melted butter to the fish along with the minced red onion and cilantro. Mix well and add salt & pepper to taste, as well as a few dashes of Tabasco if desired. Taste and adjust seasonings. 
  5. Spoon about a quarter of the fish into each roll and drizzle any remaining butter in the mixing bowl over the rolls. Garnish with a cilantro sprig and serve.