Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Part 5 Mexican (Molcajete or Mortar & Pestle) Cuisine

New Course Stone Mortar & Pestle (Molcajete)
A staple in Mexican cooking equipment is the "Mortar & Pestle"  or "Molcajete & Tejolote" as it is called in Mexico.  In Mexico, these are made from porous volcanic rock.  They must be tempered or seasoned before using.  In other parts of the world, the mortar & pestle are made from many different sources.  Many are already smooth and ready to use.  Avoid these if possible as you want one that is of porous stone of some type.  The volcanic rock is best if you can find one and it fits your budget.

They are used for many different functions.  Grinding spices, seeds and nuts dominate.  But the best guacamole is made in these too.  It is also great for making salsa, pico de gallo and mole, just to name a few recipes.  The Molcajete also works well for sauces and pastes

The Molcajete is the preferred way of preparing food in the traditional way of Mexican cooking by the chefs of the country.  Natural stone ones release the food's flavors and aromas.  A Molcajete will darken with age and use to develop a beautiful patina.  And it performs better with age and use as well.  They truly will last you a lifetime.  In fact, many are handed down in the family.  It's like a cast iron skillet to cooks in the USA.

To temper or season your Molcajete, it is best to use rock salt or white rice.  Put about a half cup into the it and work the pestle around the bottom and walls grinding whichever ingredient you chose.  Be sure to grind it into a fine powder.  Repeat this process 4 or 5 times making sure you covered all of the interior surface.  next wash it in hot water before using with food for the first time.

When using it to grind ingredients, never fill it more than 20% full.  A little less is even better.  Once the ingredient or ingredients are in it, take the pestle in one hand and push it against the ingredients using a twist of your wrist.  This makes a circular motion and helps to grind the item better and quicker.  Depending on the size of your Molcajete, you may hold it in one arm and keep it on a tabletop.  If holding, try to hold at an angle (about 20%) as you grind the contents.  You, also, want to push more against where the bottom and wall meet.  You'll want to stop periodically to stir up the ingredients.  This helps mix the items up and gives you an idea of how much more needs to be ground.

When it comes to cleaning up, never use soaps or any kind of cleaner on your Molcajete.  If you have a porous one, it will absorb the soaps or cleaners into the stone.  This will effect the flavors of the foods you use in your Molcajete.  Just clean with hot water and a plastic brush for scrubbing.  Just let it dry on it's own.

Both recipes this week call for the use of the mortar & pestle.  If you don't have one or until you get one of these great pieces of food equipment, you could use the food processor.

On Wednesday the recipe is for "Carnitas" which are succulent little pieces of pork.  This is great for putting on tacos and burritos.  Thursday has a recipe for "Onion Relish" which goes well on chicken, turkey and fish.

I hope this has been helpful to you and gives you the desire to get your own "Mortar & Pestle."  It will come in handy for all other foods you make as well.  It's not limited to just Mexican cuisine.  Until next week, "Happy Cooking" and I hope you enjoy trying this week's recipes.

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