Cooling Dishes with Cold (Leftover) Fishes

July 18, 2014

This summer, Christine Burns Rudalevige of The Family Fish Project is on a mission to help us cook and eat more seafood at home. 

Today: You can eat leftover fish -- you just have to learn how to dress them up (without recooking them).

Asian Summer Rolls on Food52

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The USDA suggests Americans should eat two 4-ounce servings of seafood per week. Nationally we consume about half that amount. An easy way to get more fish on your plate is to use the same "cook once, use twice" method that works really well for proteins like grilled flank steak and roast chicken, whole grains like farro and wild rice, and vegetables like roasted squash and baked sweet potatoes.

What? Do the same with smelly, day-old fish?

Yep! If the fish you started with was fresh, cooked well, and stored properly, then there is no good reason it can’t be savored like other favored leftovers.

More: 10 recipes for leftover fish -- it can be done!

But the secret to success with leftover fish is sticking to that "cook once" -- and only once -- part of the process. Reheating seafood -- barring its inclusion in fish cakes and soups, where the cold fish is brought back up to temperature slowly -- typically requires an odious airing out of the kitchen, maybe even the entire house.

In the summer, I keep fish odor to a minimum -- and family fish consumption to a maximum -- by grilling a couple extra portions of fish and serving them in a cold dish later in the week. Any fish -- whole or cut into steaks or fillets -- will work. If your leftover fish is still on the bone, remove the skin from the flesh and the flesh from the frame when it’s still warm, as it’s a messier job when everything is stone cold. Likewise, flake the cooked fish before it goes back in the fridge. Always cover the fish tightly and use it with within a day or two.

Asian Summer Rolls on Food52

There is no need to reinvent the wheel when using up leftover fish. It can be as simple as substituting it for canned fish in recipes for sandwiches like Pan Bagnat or rice dishes like kedgeree or salpicon. If you have leftovers from an oilier fish like mackerel, just sit them atop a vinegary Puy lentil salad like Patricia Wells' Genius Recipe for a good balance of tastes and textures. My go-to cold fish dish, though, involves slipping leftover grilled, smoked, or Asian glazed fish inside summer rolls, which swap out rice paper in favor of crisp fresh greens like rainbow chard or mustard greens and roll the fish up inside with lightly pickled vegetables.

When I serve these, no one seems to notice they're eating leftovers.

Asian Summer Rolls with Leftover Fish and Market Greens

Makes a dozen rolls

12 long chives
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1⁄2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
4 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, sliced thinly
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1⁄4 teaspoon sugar
4 radishes, grated
1 carrot, grated
6 to 12 ounces of leftover fish (such as Whole Roasted Fish, Ginger Soy Glazed Salmon, Grilled Swordfish, Hot Smoked Salmon, or Spicy Shrimp)

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by James Ransom

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • LauriL
  • cheese1227
I am an excellent eater (I have been all my life). I’m a pretty good cook (Ask my kids!). And my passable writing improves with alcohol (whether it's the writer or the reader that needs to drink varies by sentence.). I just published my first cookbook, Green Plate Special, which focuses on delicious recipes that help every day cooks eat more sustainably.


LauriL July 20, 2014
Yes, I checked out the link when I saw it last night and got some good ideas however I could only click on to two recipes that were active. Thanks for the ideas!
LauriL July 19, 2014
Love to see more fish recipes!! Thanks for this one!
cheese1227 July 20, 2014
I'll do my best LauriL. Check out the recipes at, albeit the photography is not as good....