Picadas (Pinched Masa Tartlets)
1 t. salt, or to taste
1 lb. masa, fresh or reconstituted by mixing 2 cups masa harina with about 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water (masa harina is made by Quaker Oats and other companies)
1/2 C. lard or vegetable shortening
For the toppings:
1 C. any red or green salsa
1 C. guacamole
2 C. shredded cooked chicken
8 oz. queso fresco, crumbled
1 small white onion, finely chopped
For the picadas: With your hands, work the salt into the masa. Shape it into 20 to 22 walnut-size balls. Press them into rounds about 3 inches across and 1/8-inch thick. Set them side by side (not stacked) on baking sheets as they are shaped, covering them with a damp cloth.
Lightly grease a griddle or large cast-iron skillet and heat over medium-high heat until a drop of water sizzles on contact. Have ready a basket lined with tea towels.
Now you must work quickly, because the masa will be supple enough to shape for only a few seconds after baking. Place 2 of the prepared masa rounds on the hot griddle and cook for about 1 1/2 minutes, until the edges shrink away slightly from the pan and lose their raw look. Turn and cook the other side for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes more.
Transfer to a plate or work surface and, while they’re still hot, quickly pinch up the edges of each into a slightly raised rim. Place them in the basket and cover snugly with the towels. Continue with the remaining masa rounds, 2 at a time.
Line a baking sheet with paper towels. In a small skillet or saucepan, heat the lard or shortening over medium heat until hot but not quite rippling. Using kitchen tongs, slide each picada into the hot fat and let it cook for 10 to 20 seconds. Before it starts to brown, lift out, letting it drain well, and set on the prepared baking sheet.
When all the picadas are done, layer them with guacamole, cooked chicken and salsa. Scatter some of the grated cheese over the sauce, top with some chopped onion, if desired, and serve.
Makes 20 to 22 picadas
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