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How to Cook Guilt-Free Orange Roughy

Richard DiCicco  • 
Virginia Commonwealth University

Consider the orange roughy. Native to the waters of New Zealand and Australia, this placid fish’s bulging eyes and hardy, tough jowl may scare off children if their noses are pressed up against the cold glass of the National Aquarium, but don’t let the roughy’s blunt expression put you off your appetite. The orange roughy is a versatile fish with a mild flavor that is highly adaptive to a delightful array of recipes and seasonings. The roughy can survive just about any cooking method, and—best of all—the smooth, pearly white meat of this deep-sea delicacy is naturally low in fat. Roughy can even serve as a healthy substitute for any lean meat. Regardless of how you choose to serve it, we here at guarantee that you can head to bed after dinner with no regrets.

Purchasing orange roughy.

As a result of its growing popularity, orange roughy can be found at most major supermarkets. Selecting a fish suitable for cooking is a crucial task. Be sure that the one you purchase does not have dry skin or cloudy eyes. If it has retained a fishy odor even in the grocery store, toss it aside. Sea critters counter the saltiness of the ocean with a natural production of trimethylamine oxide, and when they are hoisted up onto the deck of a hulking fishing boat—writhing in a massive net, eyes darting, gills flexing—the bacteria and enzymes in the perished fish convert trimethylamine oxide into trimethylamine. This new compound is what gives uncooked seafood a repulsive smell, one with which fish-lovers are all too familiar. That odor is a pungent memento of death, and your family or dinner guests certainly will not appreciate such an unsettling aroma wafting into the middle of a pleasant evening!

Keep orange roughy cool on the trip home. It will keep for up to two days in the refrigerator. If you plan to eat the fish more than 24 hours after bringing it home, first wash the fish under cold water, then dab it dry with paper towels. If left to stew in its own emissions, the roughy will deteriorate. As you handle your fish, it may be tempting to gaze upon the unsullied, translucent flank of the roughy and question your intentions. You may find a momentary fascination in the cold dead eye of the roughy, staring up at you through its clear Saran wrap as a black pearl might lie still in the sunlight washing over the bay, but you shouldn’t allow such distractions to spoil the fish. As you surely have noticed, your local grocer carries many more packages of orange roughy, and each of their lifeless jelly eyes will glare past you all the same. Lay your fish in a shallow pan with crushed ice and cover it with aluminum foil, then place it as far back in the refrigerator as possible so that your children or guests will not ask questions.

Orange roughy can last for two months in a freezer compartment, and three to four months in deep freeze. Livestock generally do not reproduce until they are well past their twentieth year, so you may feel persuaded to secure your roughy cache for an extended period should a looming shortage threaten your holiday potluck. However, we recommend consuming orange roughy as soon as possible—and there’s no reason not to! It’s a guaranteed hit that can be served in a variety of occasions, both formal and casual.

Cooking orange roughy.

Aside from its unusual lifespan, the orange roughy is perhaps most famous for its ease of cooking. The meat has a light texture, and the large flakes and moistness of the roughy will keep your fillet from splitting in the pan. Roughy is a flexible fish that can be baked, broiled, steamed, fried, and even microwaved. However, if you choose to grill your fillet, it’s recommended that you use a grill basket, as the orange roughy is prone to fall apart when cooked directly on the grid. Although the roughy can live up to 149 years, the elasticity of its population is extraordinarily feeble and the world’s supply is shrinking by the day; it would be unfortunate to mishandle such a simple preparation.

The following is a list of recommended dishes for orange roughy, as selected by the knowledgeable staff and contributors here at Our mission is to ensure your survival in the kitchen, so we have carefully curated a set of recipes that are simple and quick to prepare.

Rachel Carson, Managing Editor of

I’m a busy woman. Between my work here as Second Foodie-in-Command and my competent watercolors of abandoned New Hampshire lighthouses, mothering often sinks into the cracks. It’s like they say: “You can’t have a full address book without starving a few kids.” Really, who has time to cook braciole when Giada De Laurentiis is blowing up your Twitter? Not I.

When I need a dish that jibes with my high stress, high alcohol-tolerance lifestyle, baked orange roughy is a blessing in disguise. The dull pang of guilt that accompanies ordering a round of four bison burgers at Ted’s Montana Grill registers tenfold when you take a bite out of some succulent baked roughy, but you can wash those worries down with a light ale, no problem.  Plus, explaining to your children why certain things have to die is a wonderful way to introduce the concept of ethical relativism early in their development. When my husband cleaves off the head of a garden snake in the garage, they’ll know why.

Total Time: 20 min.
Makes: 6 servings

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup Daisy Brand® Sour Cream
1/4 cup sweet pickle relish
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 cup finely crushed cornflakes
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dill weed
1 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup milk
1-1/2 pounds orange roughy fillets
lemon wedges

For tartar sauce:

Whisk mayonnaise, sour cream, pickle relish, and mustard in a small mixing bowl. Cover and refrigerate.

To coat roughy:
Prepare a mix of cornflake crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and seasonings in a large resealable plastic bag. Be sure to use a transparent bag as opaque plastics may seem a bit morbid. Pour ½ cup milk into a shallow bowl, and gently dip fillets into it. Revel in silence and do not grieve. Slip fish into mixture bag and shake to coat. Make sure that coating is even enough to obscure fishy texture and quell your nagging conscience.

Remove fillets and arrange on a greased baking pan, side-by-side, as if laid to rest. Bake at 450° for 10-15 minutes or until phantom voices in the back of your head cry for mercy. Serve with tartar sauce and lemon. Consult priest or respective moral compass if necessary.


Robert D. Ballard, Author of Garden of Eatin’: Cooking the World’s Most (En)Dangerous Food

These days, there are so many taboos and restrictions suffocating fine cuisine. Anthony Bourdain once said, “I want to try everything once,” and I’ve taken that to heart. If you follow your tastebuds wherever they may roam, you’ll come to discover that the endangered species list is the most exotic menu on Earth.

Fact: The best way to serve orange roughy is broiled. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I was detained at Maribyrnong shortly after the Aussies’ moral panic over roughy fisheries, and when I cried out that broiled was the best, they set down their hot needles on a cooling board and shook my bloody hand. They even served it to me on the flight home.

Listen, there’s nothing wrong with eating orange roughy if your palate is as nihilistic as mine. Breaking the rules is like smashing fine crystal at your ex’s wedding—most people won’t try it but we’ve all thought about it. As human beings, it’s in our blood to rebel. We’re hardwired with an itch to flip the table, to say “Let me live!” So, step aside, hippies. It’s cooking time.

Total Time: 20 min.
Makes: 4 servings

4 (4 oz.) fillets orange roughy
1/2 lemon
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup prepared Dijon mustard & mayonnaise blend
1 large clove garlic, pressed
1/4 pinch salt

Preheat broiler. Raise or lower your oven rack half a foot from the heating element. Lay orange roughy on a broiler pan and strangle half a lemon over the fillets. Broil for 6 to 8 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix Parmesan, butter, Dijonnaise, garlic, and salt. Relieve fish from the punishing heat of the oven and smother it in the cheese mixture. Sprinkle paprika over top. Return to broiler for about 3 minutes, until the topping is crisp and brown.


mardy_murie64, Senior “Healthy Foods” Contributor

Dieting is intimidating. There’s a culture of sacrifice that’s cropped up around health food that turns more and more people away from it every year. I treated my meat-eating cousin to a full-course dinner a few weeks back and he was shocked to find that every single part of his meal was made of high-grade tofu. Even the napkins! People, just because you’ve chosen a healthier lifestyle doesn’t mean you have to have chopped carrots in a bowl of hot water every night. Eating right isn’t about giving up what you love; it’s about finding healthy alternatives and then only making a quarter of the serving size.

Orange roughy is particularly good for you, and a wonderful substitute for meat. Not only is this fish easy to digest, but it’s also absolutely packed with precious proteins, so you can tell everyone how energized you are after every meal. Trust me: it tastes so good, you’ll call it a guilty pleasure!

Total Time: 55 min.
Makes: 3 servings

2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 1/4 cups finely chopped onions
1/2 cup spinach
1/2 tablespoon lemon pepper
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
Chardonnay wine
12 ounces plain nonfat yogurt
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 pound orange roughy fillets
2 tablespoons Italian seasoned bread crumbs
3 sprigs fresh parsley, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a baking pan with aluminum foil. If yoga mat is available, try doing a one-leg seated spinal twist (Marichyasana III) to help center your digestive tract.

In a medium saucepan, cook mushrooms and onions for 4 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add lemon pepper, Italian seasoning, black pepper, and salt to taste. If you’re feeling a little randy, add a splash of Chardonnay, spinach, and chili powder to heighten the senses and dull inhibitions. Remove from heat, and let cool for about 10 minutes. A seated forward bend (Paschimottanasana) is recommended during wait time, to relieve any abdominal stress. When ready, blend yogurt and Parmesan cheese into saucepan.

Spread 2 tablespoons of mushroom mixture over the baking pan and arrange each orange roughy fillet on the pan in the corpse pose (Shavasana). Pour the remaining mixture over top and sprinkle with bread crumbs.

Bake 30 minutes in the oven, and perform the fish pose (Matsyasana) to help yourself be mindful of the fantastic journey that the orange roughy had to make to finally reach your Frigidaire gas range. Use paprika for seasoning and parsley for garnish.

Serving orange roughy.

Serve orange roughy with care. If your family asks which type of fish you used in your dish, merely respond, “tilapia,” as they likely don’t know the difference. Should an older child or particularly liberal spouse present the moral inquisition, “Did you cook orange roughy?” or “Don’t you know that’s an endangered species?” respond with the terse suggestion that roughy fisheries are merely unsustainable. If questions persist, turn dinner into a game! Challenge your family to name ten animals they wouldn’t want to eat, and you’ll have their attention diverted in no time at all.

When serving orange roughy to dinner guests, your role as host affords you two distinct positions: silence, the easiest and simplest way to serve food; and discussion, which is best saved for dessert. If and when any one guest discovers the key ingredient in your meal, claim that it was an ethical experiment and initiate a debate on the moral implications of consuming threatened marine life. Should anyone take offense to the notion of being inducted into an experiment without prior consent, laugh and dryly state that the roughy was actually tilapia, as they probably don’t know the difference.

Cooking orange roughy may be a culinary endeavor that straddles a blurred line, but that shouldn’t scare off your spatula! When it comes to plumbing the depths of human desire, cooks will always lead the charge. After all, if morality dictated our tastes, who would eat Rocky Mountain oysters?

Remember that taking pleasure in the preparation is half the fun of eating! As Julia Child once said, “If you’re not contributing to the obliteration of an entire species, you’re not really cooking.”