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Jun 30, 2013 11:39 AM

Ways to stretch fish for the grill to feed a crowd inexpensively?

We are having a BBQ of about 16 or so people for 4th of July. We don't eat meat, so we usually do a portobello burger or fish kebabs as a main course when we BBQ (along with plenty of veggies and side salads). I'd love to do some kind of fish but we're trying to avoid spending a ton of money. Any suggestions for recipes that stretch the use of the fish so that I don't have to buy the equivalent of 1/2 pound per person? I initially thought of salmon burgers, but most of the recipes I've used in the past still have a high fish: other ingredient ratio. Thanks in advance!

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  1. No fish kebabs for this? I would think one could put just a couple of pieces of fish on the skewer, along with fruit (like pineapple chunks) or veggies, then grill. Maybe do some grain salads to balance the use of fruit and veggies on the kebab.

    1 Reply
    1. re: wyogal

      That's what I was thinking but I worry people will eat a lot at a time and I'd still need to make a big batch...with burgers it's easier because you know people will limit themselves to one or two. I'll look into it more, though.

    2. I might suggest cooking some chicken / red meat for the non veggies?

      One other Idea shrimp burgers - you grind some of the shimp to a paste in the food processor as a binder then add whole shrimp and form patties...

      you can used a lower quality shrimp for this - very reasonable frozen at some of the big box stores...

      Here's one recipe I found.

      Also, using salmon bellies etc you could make fish sausage

      Blacken' Catfish? Pretty inexpensive and quite easy to do on the grill...

      1. Eight ounces per person??? That's ridiculous. Try three or four. How about fish tacos where you use even less so they can go back for seconds?

        16 Replies
        1. re: c oliver

          Sorry, that's what I meant--1/4 lb per person. But still, to serve 16 people that means at least 4 adds up quickly! I like the fish taco idea.

          1. re: arielleeve

            We make tacos a lot and from all sorts of things. It takes so little 'protein' so any little dabs of leftover meat or fish will make us a couple. While not truly taco-esque, we put rice, beans, cheese, etc. on the tortillas rather than as sides.

            1. re: c oliver

              I'm starting to get very into the taco idea. Wonder if it will clash too much with other sides I was going to make, like pasta and potato salad, but I'm sure I could find some interesting recipes that have a southwestern/Mexican the top of my head recalling a wonderful corn edamame salad I've made many times (epicurious). One question, what would be the best way to heat up/keep warm many tortillas at once? I like the idea of grilling all the fish, then putting out the fixins in bowls and letting people make their own tacos. Our grill is quite small though, so wouldn't want to make people wait while we grill each and every tortilla.

              1. re: arielleeve

                Put the warm tortillas in covered casserole dish. Yes, they will eventually cool down. But, oh well. One can reheat them quickly in the microwave.
                One could put a bit of smoked green chile in the potato salad, here's a google search:

                1. re: arielleeve

                  I've done multiple tortillas between layers of paper towels and MWd. I never feel obligated to get all matchy-matchy with informal gatherings but, yeah, I think you could lend a Mexican slant to lots of things. Lately I've been mixing some finely chopped chipotles in adobo to mayo for dressings for burgers or dips. Maybe do a small test run of potato salad with that?

                  1. re: c oliver

                    Oooh, also could buy a few portobello caps to grill that could be sliced and put into tacos. I think I have a recipe from vegetarian times that called for that. Would be a way to make the tacos last longer, bring some variety, and feed anyone who doesn't like fish (it happens).

                    1. re: arielleeve

                      Yes, and with the addition of the other toppings, one could have a taco bar that would feed plenty. Just don't put all the fish out at once, save some for the second half of the group! (if you fear someone will help themselves to too much!)

                      1. re: wyogal

                        I like the bar idea a lot. Getting outside the box and let people play around.

                    2. re: c oliver


                      Didn't think pasta salad would work, but this could be really good.

                      1. re: arielleeve

                        That sounds fabulous! You could also use orzo. I'd be putting that in my taco...but I'm kinda wild and crazy :)

                        1. re: arielleeve

                          If you don't want to do pasta salad because you don't think it'll go with the "theme" you could always do a Texas style potato salad - they have mustard, mayo, jalapenos, onions, and potatoes, and often a little cayenne for a bit of a kick.

                    3. re: c oliver

                      If you use a large taco then bcomes a Burrito, which is fine too.

                    4. re: arielleeve

                      How much are you looking to spend?

                      1. re: arielleeve

                        how about sustainable tilapia? that works well as a fish taco and not expensive. also i like the idea of asking people to help out. you tell them you're making tacos, they will bring beer/chips/guacomole/salsa whatever THEY think will go with the main. you also make vegetarian/bean tacos as suggested. i personally love bean tacos.
                        people most likely will take one bean and one fish taco if you put them out together.

                        1. re: arielleeve

                          fish isn't very filling and you will lose some water weight when cooking -- about 10%. so 1 pound will cook down to 13-15 oz.

                          i appreciate entertaining on a budget, but planning only 3-4 raw ounces of fish pp is very skimpy. will other people be bringing more protein? tacos will help stretch the fish for sure and offering a bean/lime/chili/cilantro kinda filling will help too. that can even be cold.

                          would you think about making fresh spring rolls? not grilled, i know, but those can be mostly veggies with very small bits of fish in there. it's pre-portioned, won't look as meager to your guests and will leave the grill open for those making their own meat. these don't need to be limited to an asian flavor profile if you don't want.

                        2. re: c oliver

                          Fish tacos are my suggestion as well

                        3. How about making a grilled fish cake. Fish Cakes use potato as a filler. That's how my family use to stretch the dollar!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: treb

                            do this, and pan fry them on a cast iron pan on grill. not sure how they'd be directly grilled.

                          2. fish tacos don't need a lot of fish per taco, and are great made with grilled fish. You can use the small corn tortillas (softened up), make a cabbage slaw, guacamole, salsa and some lime/cilantro/serrano crema.

                            Sides can be black beans and rice, which is pretty inexpensive.