Topsail Top Bites

As a kid growing up along the Gulf Coast of Florida, fresh fish and shellfish were always abundant. Our neighbor went fishing regularly and would often bring us grouper as his “catch of the day,” in which we were lucky to partake in the spoils of his labor. It’s been a while since I’ve had a grouper dish to conjure up this childhood favorite fish of mine, but Chef Bud Taylor from The Bistro at Topsail surely did it.


I was invited down to a media dinner hosted by Tabletop Media Group and Chef Bud and I immediately said yes. One, because Topsail Beach is in my top 3 best NC beaches and two, because I’m pretty sure seafood was going to be involved. We were treated to a five course feast, but Chef Bud’s decadent Pan Roasted Grouper with Orange Braised Leeks & Vadouvan Jus really hit home with me. The aroma that filled the room as the plates were set down was so enticing, it only made me even more excited to taste every component of the dish. Perfectly seared grouper, rich vadouvan jus and the leeks that melted like butter in your mouth. Absolutely astounding.


Of course, I’m not going to leave you hanging with just my description of the dish and a few drool-worthy pictures! Here’s the adapted version of Chef Bud Taylor’s Pan Roasted Grouper with Orange Braised Leeks & Vadouvan Jus. This adapted version has less butter than the original, but the flavor and intensity is still there from the fresh ingredients and spices.

Pan Roasted Grouper with Orange Braised Leeks & Vadouvan Jus

For the Orange Braised Leeks:

  • 4-6 leeks, green parts removed
  • 1 orange, zested and juiced
  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
  • salt, black pepper and sugar, to taste


  1. Slice leeks lengthwise through the center, and then into 1/2-inch half moon slices.
  2. Soak leeks in a bowl of cool water, mixing around leeks with your hands to make sure all grit is removed.
  3. In a large saute pan over low heat, melt 1 teaspoon of the butter. Add in the leeks and cook for 2-4 minutes until softened, but do not brown them.
  4. Add in the orange zest and juice.
  5. Add in the remaining 1 teaspoon of butter and continue cooking until leeks are soft and semi transparent.
  6. Season with salt, black pepper and sugar to taste. This makes 4 servings to be served hot alongside the Pan Roasted Grouper and Vadouvan Jus.

For the Vadouvan Jus:

  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • 1 small shallot, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, diced
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons Vadouvan spice


  1. In a medium saucepan over low heat, cook shallot, garlic and butter for 1 minute.
  2. Add in the white wine and bring to a boil. Simmer this down until the liquid is almost gone, about 5-7 minutes.
  3. Add cream and Vadouvan spice. Bring to a simmer and reduce sauce until it coats the back of a spoon.
  4. Strain the sauce through cheesecloth or a fine mesh sieve before serving immediately with the Pan Roasted Grouper and Orange Braised Leeks. The extra sauce can be refrigerated for up to 2 days and reheated using a double boiler.

For the Pan Roasted Grouper:

  • Four 4-oz. grouper filets
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • salt and black pepper, to taste


  1. Season grouper with salt and black pepper.
  2. Heat a saute pan over medium-high heat. Place fish in pan, skin side up, and sear until golden brown. You’ll see the fish is ready to flip once the fish starts to turn white on the sites.
  3. Flip fish and allow to finish cooking just until it’s flaky. This makes 4 servings to be served immediately with the Orange Braised Leeks and Vadouvan Jus.

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