What about those wrinkled little oranges? I don’t think they get enough respect. You can buy them for around 50 cents a can. Not as expensive or tropical sounding as tamarind, guava, star, passion, or dragon fruit, but they are oh so good. Those tiny little segments of citrus that burst in your mouth can be used in salads, wonderful in main dishes and in all kinds of desserts. It is hard to stop eating them once you take the lid off the can. I’m guilty of eating a whole can by myself.
What is a Mandarin orange? It comes from a small citrus tree resembling the orange tree and is just one variety of the orange family. The fruit is oblate in shape, not round like the orange. I have never bought or even seen a fresh Mandarin orange. Although tangerines are similar, they are not Mandarin oranges. They are a variety of the Mandarin orange tree. Mandarin oranges are easily peeled with the fingers.
Not to sound like Forrest Gump, but I have made Mandarin Orange Chicken Bites, Mandarin Orange Cake, Mandarin Orange Napoleons, Mandarin Orange Chicken and Rice Salad. I have put them in Tropical Mandarin Pork Kabobs, a 24 hour fruit salad, a Cashew Chicken salad with Mandarin Oranges and even topped a tea sandwich with a Mandarin Orange. It is a pretty versatile little fruit.
This recipe is a little unusual, I think, because the phyllo is sprinkled with sugar that has some five spice powder added to it. I love working with phyllo. Nothing scary about using it. Just thaw in the refrigerator or sometimes I thaw my at room temperature. I very seldom even cover mine with a damp cloth like is recommended because I work fast enough mine never dries out. If it tears, don’t worry about it, just lap it over and put on another piece. Hope you will give this a try.
Mandarin Orange Napoleons
1 tsp. five spice powder
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 pkg. phyllo dough, thawed
4 Tbsp. butter, melted
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 cans mandarin oranges, drained (reserve a few or garnishing)
Powdered sugar for dusting
Set your oven at 375°. In a bowl whisk the five spice powder with 4 tablespoons granulated sugar and set aside. The original recipe only called for 4 layers of phyllo dough. I thought that was too thin, so I made mine 6 layers. Arrange 1 sheet of phyllo on baking sheet that has been lightly sprayed with a cooking spray. Brush with butter and sprinkle on some of the five spice powder sugar mixture. Continue doing this until you have 6 layers of phyllo. Then do another pan with remaining phyllo. Invert a large rectangular cooling rack and place it on top of the phyllo. Bake until golden brown. Watch closely. Carefully remove cooling racks. Cool. While the phyllo cools, blend together the cream cheese, lemon juice, vanilla, 2 tablespoons reserved orange syrup and remaining 2 tablespoons of the granulated sugar in a food processor or stand mixer until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and fold in oranges. DO NOT try and add the oranges in the process or mixer because it will make the mixture too thin.
Break the phyllo with your hands into small irregular pieces, about 3″x4″. (Any baked phyllo you do not need, can be frozen for future use.) Arrange 1 piece of the baked plyllo on a plate and top with a dollop of the mousse mixture. Repeat, making three layers of phyllo, two layers of mousse and ending with phyllo on top. You can dust top with powdered sugar and garnish with Mandarin orange segments.