It's great for just about anything you want to smash: garlic, whole cloves, chiles, guacamole. It's also the name of a dish served in a molcajete: grilled meat or shrimp with nopales, onion, cheese and salsa, fired up in a hot oven and served with hot tortillas.
The molcajete is going to be dusty right after picking one up at a market, and will need to be cured before use. To cure a molcajete, rinse it a few times then throw in a handful of uncooked rice. Grind the rice to a powder, dump out, and repeat until the rice looks white and clean.
Alternative methods to cure a molcajete:
- Do the same as above, but with rock salt instead of rice.
- Boil the molcajete in water (no soap) for 30 minutes.
- Grind a whole head of garlic in the molcajete, spread the garlic paste on the sides and leave overnight. Rinse off the next day.
- Do the above (garlic), but instead of leaving overnight, bake the molcajete with paste in the oven for 30 minutes. You can also add onion and a bit of cooking oil to the paste before baking.