Making magic with mandarins

Festival features recipe contest
By: Loryll Nicolaisen, Journal features editor
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Fall in the foothills just wouldn’t be right without some sweet, sassy mandarins. Placer County’s bright orange bite-sized gems taste great on their own, but can also serve as inspiration for some innovative dishes. That’s the hope, at least, of the folks at the Mountain Mandarin Festival. Registration is open for the recipe which has been a feature 14 of the festival’s 17 years. “The goal with the recipe contest was to expand knowledge of using mandarins, and not just in Jell-O, spinach salad and cheesecake,” said Gary Gilligan, Mountain Mandarin Festival executive director. Karen Spencer, festival spokeswoman, agrees. “With the recipe contest we can showcase mandarin oranges in cooking and share the recipes in our collection,” she said. The recipe contest features three categories — entrees, side dishes and desserts — and is open, free, to everyone. The contest takes place Sunday, Nov. 21 in the Armory Building of the Gold Country Fairgrounds. There aren’t a ton of rules, but they are important — recipes must be original, must be typed, and must feature mandarins. “We like it to use fresh Placer County mandarins, but we know they’re not available year-round, so canned mandarins are acceptable,” Gilligan said. Gilligan suggests participants step outside of their comfort zone for the contest. “Sometimes simplicity isn’t the best,” he said. “We always look for something out of the ordinary.” Dishes are judged on presentation, creative use of mandarins and flavor. Prizes include cookware and cash. See for complete details. __________ Mountain Mandarin Festival When: Nov. 19-21; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday Where: Gold Country Fairgrounds, 1273 High St. Cost: $6 general, $4 seniors, free for children 12 and under Info: __________ Mandarin Chocolate Cheesecake Crust 2 cups finely ground chocolate graham crackers (about 30 squares) 1 stick salted butter, melted Filling 2 8-ounce blocks cream cheese, softened 3 eggs 1 cup sugar 1 pint sour cream ¼ teaspoon mandarin zest ¼ teaspoon vanilla Topping 4 egg yolks 1/3 cup cornstarch 1 ½ cup water 1 1/3 cup sugar ¼ teaspoon salt 3 tablespoons butter ½ cup fresh squeezed mandarin juice 1 tablespoon grated mandarin zest Smidge of orange food coloring to enhance color Garnish ¼ cup shaved chocolate Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine ground chocolate graham cracker and melted butter with a fork until moistened. Lightly coat bottom and sides of an 8-inch spring form pan with non-stick cooking spray. Pour crumbs into pan and compact them with your hand. Bring crumb mixture about 1 inch up the sides of the pan. Put in freezer 10 minutes. For the filling, put cream cheese in bowl and mix only 30 seconds to get a quick mix. Add eggs 1 at a time, beat on low speed. Add sugar ½ cup at a time. Then add sour cream, mandarin zest, and vanilla. Mix well but only 1-2 minutes. Pour into crust. Set cheesecake pan on a large piece of aluminum foil and fold the sides down to the top of the spring form pan. Place the cake in a large roasting pan and pour boiling water in pan about half way of the spring form pan. Bake 45-50 minutes. Let cool in pan 30 minutes and then move to refrigerator, loosely covered, far at least 4 hours. While cheesecake is baking, add egg yolks to small bowl and whisk. Set aside. In medium saucepan, combine cornstarch, water, sugar, and salt. Whisk and move mixture to stove and heat and gradually, (1 whisk full at a time), add to egg yolks. Stir until half of the mixture is added. Return egg mixture to sauce pan and then cook on low heat for a minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add butter 1 tablespoon at a time. Then add fresh mandarin juice, zest and orange food coloring. Combine well. Cool mixture to room temperature and add to top of cheesecake. Put back in refrigerator until set (about 30 minutes to an hour.) Fro chocolate garnish, use plastic pastry bag (or zip lock freezer bag) and melt chocolate in microwave for 1 minute at a time until melted. Then cut the tip off the bag, and in a zig-zag motion, cover cheesecake. ~Recipe created by Rocklin resident Kristin Platzer