The other day my daughter mentioned that the Florida manatee was no longer on the endangered list. My first thought was, “Excellent news! I guess humans can respect nature and serve as good stewards of our planet.”
Anyone want to guess what my second thought was? “Does that mean we can enjoy a nice juicy manatee steak for dinner?” I mean, manatees are also known as sea cows, and cows are delicious (and they’re not on any endangered list). So it follows that a sea cow should be fair game for a tasty treat. Am I right?
The Tocobaga sure thought so. The 16th-century Native American tribe used to stalk Tampa-area waterways in dugout canoes, hunting manatee with spears and rope.
They used the bones as tools and the skin as clothing and shelter. There’s no record of how the Tocobaga chefs prepared the luscious flesh, but I bet it was amazing.
Down south a bit, in Belize, manatee hunting was once a respected sport. The tradition continued to be practiced as late as the 1960s and was the only source of meat, other than fish, that many of the Islanders were able to enjoy. The meat was reportedly similar in flavor to beef or pork. (Finally, a new meat that doesn’t “taste like chicken.”)
Ok, truth be told I’m not really tempted to eat manatee. Perhaps I have a soft spot in my heart after all the years I listened to Veggie Tales tapes with my children. Remember Barbara Manatee? (She’s the one for me!)
Anyway, since manatee purportedly tastes like pork, I thought I might discuss the incredible virtues of a Mojo Style roasted pork butt. The idea behind a good mojo pork is to create a crispy crust on the outside while leaving the middle incredibly moist and succulent, like manatee. To begin the process, you must marinate the meat overnight, and for truly incredible, over-the-top, award-winning results, you must cook the pork both covered and uncovered. Now because I’m in a really good mood, I’ve decided to include a very nice marinade recipe. Here’s the basic technique: First use my marinade, and be sure to reserve half of the marinade for the finishing sauce, then coat the pork with the marinade and allow it to marinate for at least 24 hours. Next, seal the pork in a double wrap of foil and roast in a 275°F oven for about three hours. Next uncover the pork and increase the oven temp to 325°F and continue to roast for another two to three hours. This should result in the promised crispy exterior and moist, juicy, succulent inside (much like our friend Barbara Manatee).
Chef Bill’s Mojo Marinade
• 8 garlic cloves, minced
• 2 tsp. cumin
• 1/4 cup fresh oregano, chopped
• 2 oranges, juiced
• 4 limes, juiced
• 2 oz. olive oil
• 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
• 2 Tbsp. ground chipotle powder
• Salt & pepper to taste
• Mix all the ingredients.
• Coat a boneless pork butt with half the marinade, cover and refrigerate.