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Ask a Foodie: Where’s the Orange Roughy?

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An easy recipe for whitefish is to sauté it in butter with dill and capers.

Q. Why don’t I see orange roughy in the supermarket anymore? — J.C.

A. Orange roughy, which got its name from its orange color and rough scales, was once the go-to fish for people who don’t like fish. It doesn’t have a fishy taste, the bones are usually missing, there’s no skin to deal with, and it can be cooked in minutes. Plus, it is both light and refreshing.

So, we’ve just about fished it out of existence. At least that’s what the seafood monger at my local H-E-B told me when I put your question to her.

One of the reasons is that the fish is slow to mature, according to Mar-Eco, an ecological group that focuses on the environment of the northern Mid-Atlantic. That means the supply won’t replenish itself quickly.

For people who want orange roughy, there are numerous substitutes.

Tilapia is a favorite with many for many of the reasons listed above, but it is usually farmed raised and that means it is not appealing to a growing number of people. (For one perspective on the issue of farm-raised fish, click here.)

In the seafood case, I found a wild-caught whitefish, Cape Capensis, which comes from the coast off Southwestern Africa. The frozen seafood section had barramundi, which was the seafood saleswoman’s other suggestion.

I sautéed the Cape Capensis in some butter with salt, pepper, dill and a few capers on top. It cooked in minutes and was delicious. The one drawback for some is that the fillets broke apart as they cooked, so it wasn’t picture perfect, though it tasted great.

If you need further guidance, get to know the people behind the seafood counter where you shop. They can be a big help.

Click here for a recipe for Cape Capensis baked with herbs. The cereal coating will help keep the fillets together.

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One Response to “Ask a Foodie: Where’s the Orange Roughy?”

  1. Randy Walker says:

    I miss the orange roughy as well. I do like the tilapia, but it seems to be a bit more fishy tasting, which I like. Tilapia is actually a trash fish in Hawaii, in its canals, as it reproduces and matures quickly. It can also live in very poor and dirty environments, which is good as it has an extremely high amount of protien, which is hard for poverty stricken areas to obtain. It originated in the Nile river, where it was reffered to as St. Peters fish, due to the spots on the skin that look like finger prints. I agree, the cape capensis is a great fish, does not hold together well, but the flavor is delicious.