Masa Tart Shells

3/4 pound masa preparada (prepared masa, available at H-E-B and Fiesta markets)
1/3 cup (about 3 ounces) lard or Crisco, at room temperature
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon powdered
guajillo or ancho chile (not chili powder)
1/4 cup good-quality chicken stock, such as Swanson’s chicken broth
custard filling (recipe below)
1/4 cup crumbled
cotija cheese or other semi-dry Mexican white cheese
minced mixed peppers (reserved from custard-filling recipe)

Note: You will need a muffin tin with cups measuring 1 1/2 inches in diameter to make bite-size tarts.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Using an electric mixer, combine masa preparada and lard. (Lard makes a more flavorful tart and is better for you than Crisco.) Add salt and powdered chile and mix again. Add chicken stock in 3 batches, mixing well with a spoon after each addition. Dough should be a thick paste; add more masa if too thin. (You may need about 1 2 teaspoon more salt if your stock is salt-free.)

Using your fingers or a small spoon, press dough 1 8 -inch thick into each cup of muffin tin. Ladle custard to just under rim. Bake in a water bath for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Remove muffin tin from oven, loosen tarts with a knife, and remove from tin. Sprinkle with cotija cheese and garnish with minced peppers. Tarts can be cooked up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated. Reheat at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. Makes 24 tarts.

Custard Filling

3 heads garlic or enough to yield 1/3 cup puréed garlic
olive oil
3 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup minced red bell pepper
1/3 cup minced yellow bell pepper
1/3 cup minced orange bell pepper
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Note: Reserve a small amount of minced peppers for garnish.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut heads of garlic in half horizontally and place cut side up in a roasting pan. Drizzle 1 teaspoon olive oil over each half. Sprinkle pan with 2 to 3 tablespoons water, cover tightly with foil, and bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until garlic is golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes more. Remove from pan and let cool. Squeeze softened garlic from husks and purée in a blender with a small amount of olive oil.

In a mixing bowl, whisk egg yolks and set aside. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring cream, bell peppers, and puréed garlic to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Gradually add cream mixture to egg yolks, stirring continuously with a spoon. Season with salt and pepper.