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Spago's Mandarin Silken Tart

Basil Scented Mandarins
1/2 C. water
1/2 C. sugar
1 leaf basil, bruised
6 mandarins

Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and cool until just warm. Add the basil leaf.

Peel the mandarins and scrape the pith from each segment. Store the sections in the basil-scented syrup. This keeps them from drying out and gives them a great shine.

Almond Filo Shell
3 sheets filo dough
1/4 C. butter, melted
1 T. almond extract
1/4 C. sliced almonds, chopped super fine
1/2 t. coarse salt

Cover the filo sheets with a damp cloth when you're not using them.

In a small bowl, combine the butter and almond extract and stir until smooth.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the almonds on a jellyroll pan and toast until they are fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the almonds from the oven and sprinkle them with the salt.

Set the first filo sheet on a work surface and brush with some butter. Sprinkle half of the almonds over the top, concentrating on the middle third of the filo sheet. Lay a second filo sheet over the top and press down around the edges to seal it to the bottom sheet. Brush the second sheet with more melted butter and sprinkle over the rest of the almonds. Top with the third filo sheet, and press to seal. Fold the prepared filo layers into a 9-inch tart pan and carefully trim off the excess dough, leaving 1/2 inch of the dough extending over the edge of the pan rim.

Bake the shell until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool.

Filling:
2 eggs
1/3 C. sugar
1 C. mandarin juice
1 T. mandarin zest
1/2 t. tangerine oil (optional)
1/4 C. crème fraîche
1/2 C. whipping cream
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1/4 C. lemon juice
salt

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Whisk the eggs until they are broken up in a medium mixing bowl. Add the sugar, mandarin juice, zest, tangerine oil, crème fraîche, cream, vanilla, lemon juice and a dash of salt and whisk gently until completely mixed.

Pour the mixture into the prepared Almond Filo Shell and bake until the center is set, about 20 minutes.

Cool the tart to room temperature and garnish it with the Basil-Scented Mandarins.
 

    
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