Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Introducing the Molcajete

 I grew up in a household that did not revere avocados. Unlike my own adult home where I panic when I start running low, my mother didn't care for them, so we didn't eat them. It was not until I was in college that I was introduced to Mexican food and the deliciousness that is guacamole. Interestingly, it was Mr. O-P who took me out for my first Mexican dinner (rather frightening me with the refried beans) back when I was his student. Well, technically, I was not his student as I'd dropped his class weeks before deciding that studying 18th-Century British Literature was not the way that I wanted to spend my time. (In later years this REALLY came back to bite me on the behind, as all things tend to do, but that is another story.)

The guacamole was created table side in a bowl made of lava rock. A geology major at the time, I was fascinated by anything having to do with rocks and minerals; a foodie from birth I was completely intrigued to see them used as kitchen tools. That day I decided that I wanted this strange rock bowl.

Flash forward twenty some years, years of Christmas and birthday lists with my number one item being a molcajete. Years and years of disappointment.  No one in my family knew what it was, no one knew how to pronounce the word, so wouldn't dream of asking for one, so no one bought it. This one, this gorgeous one here is courtesy of Williams-Sonoma (And, heads up people, they’re on sale!). I am now in possession of a Mexican mortar (molcajete) and pestle (tejolete) carved from volcanic rock.  It will set at the center of my table and will be used, I vow, weekly or more. It will retain oils of the spices used as it becomes seasoned over the years; the interior will become as smooth as glass from grinding.  This will become my culinary version of the arc of the covenant, a symbol of creation, strength, life, and sustenance. Too over dramatic for you?

If you like guacamole, get one. You will not regret it.  It you get one from Williams-Sonoma you will find that it comes basically seasoned, meaning most of the rough edges have been ground down. There will still have to be some effort on your part though, and this will unleash your inner Aztec. 
To ensure there is no grit in your food, throw about a quarter of a cup of rice into the work bowl, and grind it into powder. You will see little bits of black grit mixed in with the rice.  Dump the rice, and repeat this process until no grit appears. 
Then rinse the bowl, scrubbing lightly with a wire brush, set on the counter and let it air dry.

Tomorrow we make guacamole!

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~~louise~~ said...

Now that's what I call, way cool!!! I'm delighted that you splurged and finally got a Molcajete for yourself. It sure is new to me, I can't imagine waiting so patiently to find one myself but, I am thrilled you got one and I can't wait for some guacamole!

Thanks for sharing, Pattie, very cool indeed!

Lori E said...

I would love to have one of those. The rice tip is wonderful. I can just smell the garlic shmooshed up right now.

jabreb said...

Will have to check out Wm. S - A few years ago a family gave me their heirloom molcajete (the tejolete was missing); they stated it came from Mexico and their grandmother used to grind corn on it to make corn tortillas! It's about 14-16 inches long and sits on three legs. I can't imagine giving this away but I'm glad they chose me! I've never used it, so thanks for the tip re seasoning with rice. So glad you finally have one.

Marigene said...

I have had a molcajete/tejolete for several years, but haven't enjoyed it until the last couple.

Alycia Nichols said...

I have had a molcajete for years and years and years that I bought in Mexico. It's always been more of a decorative piece for me than something I actually use, though. Knowing how to grind out that center gives me reason to revisit the idea of using it in the kitchen, though!!! I cook a lot of Mexican food around here (in fact, we had a tequila-lime chicken last night and my friend and I are going to enjoy enchiladas tonight!), so goodness knows the molcajete will come in handy. I'm sure it's far more satisfying to use than a food processor! :-)

Ivy, Phyllis and Me! said...

Good Morning Pattie, How exciting, after so many years, to find the molcajete of your dreams. This was a fun and interesting piece to read.
My daughter lives in India, and she bought a large pestle and mortar, but has not been able to use it as the interior is rough like your molcajete. We thought it needed to be treated,and we did try a number of things to solve the problem which did not work, so I am going to suggest to her that she uses the rice method which you suggested to see if that helps.
Have many hours of fun with your molcajete.
Best Wishes