Mini Eggplant Parmesan

ingredients

4 to 6 servings
 
Sauce
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oilextra-virgin olive oil2
1 shallot, mincedshallot(s), large1
1 large garlic clove, mincedgarlic clove1
1 cup jarred marinara, such as GDL Tomato Basiljar marinara sauce1
¼ cup finely chopped fresh basilbasil¼
1 teaspoon dried oreganodried oregano leaves1
1/8 teaspoon dried crushed red pepperred pepper flakes1/8
¼ teaspoon (or more) balsamic vinegarbalsamic vinegar¼
¼ teaspoon kosher saltkosher salt¼
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepperfreshly ground black pepper1/8
Eggplant
½ cup all purpose flourall purpose flour½
2 large egg whitesegg(s)2
1 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)1
2 Japanese eggplants, sliced ¼-inch-thick, each cut on slight diagonaljapanese eggplants2
⅔ cup olive oil (not necessarily extra-virgin)olive oil0.6600
½ cup (packed) coarsely grated whole-milk mozzarella cheesemozzarella cheese½
½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheeseparmesan cheese½
Small fresh basil leaves (garnish)basil1

instructions

 
Sauce
Place the oil in a heavy medium saucepan. Add add the shallot and garlic to the saucepan. Stir over medium heat until very fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, basil, oregano, and crushed red pepper. Simmer the sauce until flavors blend and the sauce thickens slightly, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Mix in the vinegar, salt, and pepper, then more vinegar if desired. Puree sauce in blender. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cool, cover, and chill.)
Eggplant
Place flour and panko in medium bowls. Whisk egg whites in a third medium bowl until broken up and very frothy. Dip each eggplant slice in flour, then egg white, then panko to coat completely. Arrange eggplant on paper towels. (Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Heat the oil in a heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes until hot (the surface will appear to be shimmering). Add half of eggplant. Cook until deep golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes per side (or more if needed). Carefully (so the crispy crust does not break) transfer the eggplant to a paper towel lined plate. Fry the remaining eggplant. (Can be made 1 hour ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)

Toss the cheeses in a small bowl until well blended. Spread 1 generous teaspoon of sauce on each eggplant slice. Top each with a rounded teaspoon of cheese mixture; spread out to cover and press lightly to adhere. Transfer the eggplant slices to a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until the cheese mixture melts and the eggplant is heated through and crisp, about 12 minutes. Transfer the mini eggplant Parmesans to a platter. Garnish each with 2 small basil leaves. Let stand 2 to 3 minutes to cool a bit and serve.

cook's notes

Seems like a lot of oil, but it has to be deep enough to come half-way up the sides of the slices, hence the medium skillet instead of a large one. That way the entire coating will be golden after the eggplant is cooked on both sides.

Use a slotted spatula to transfer the fried eggplant so excess oil will drain and the crust will remain intact.
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