When I was young, I was not a huge fan of eggplant. No shape or form, not even baked as in parmagian.
As a young adult, I gave my mother a catered party for her 55th birthday, and the owner insisted I try his eggplant. I LOVED it! He gave me a few hints on how to make it so that it would not be bitter, and try as I might, I could make a decent eggplant parmagian, but never up to level of the excellent way his turned out. Restaurants always made it taste better than mine also, so for years I gave up.
When I visited my niece up North over the last few years, we always went to the various Italian Deli's where they would make it and you could purchase it as take out, and I would savor each and every time I was lucky enough to get it. Two years ago when I was there, I closely examined how it was prepared and today, I finally made some at home, using the tricks I observed (and my old ones) and finally, I did it. I made some that even my husband, who loves eggplant, was surprised at how incredible the difference was.
Trick #1: I always sliced my eggplant in circles. Just slices from end to end. I've even purchased frozen breaded eggplant that was sliced this way. Nope, wrong. In examining the eggplant I purchased up North, the eggplant is sliced very thinly ACROSS the length of the eggplant. Very thin.
Trick #2: As soon as you remove the purple outer coating, the plant starts to darken, especially the seeds. This is what causes a 'bitter' taste. As soon as you slice it, it must either be placed into the egg mixture and then breaded and the remaining unsliced part should be placed into cool water to slow down the 'darkening' process. Any exposed plant will very quickly darken.
I set up my work station prior to starting to remove the outer plant cover and slicing.
My cutting board, beaten egg, and bread crumbs were all in a row, the olive oil was heating on the stove, and a baking dish ready with just a bit of sauce covering the bottom was readied, along with a long shallow dish of cool water in which I placed the exposed eggplant into as I worked.
I peeled about 1/3 of the eggplant, then made very thin slices and placed the unsliced portion into the water to keep from being exposed to the air. You may find it necessary to place something a little heavy on top of the eggplant as it does tend to 'float' a bit.
Working with a few pieces at a time, the eggplant was coated in egg, breaded and fried in the hot olive oil. You don't want it to be too hot as it will cook very quickly.
When these slices of eggplant were browned, I drained them on paper towels and sliced more of the remaining eggplant, again, a few slices at a time, and coated and set them to fry.
When all my eggplant was cooked, I prepared my baking dish.
The first batch of eggplant was placed along the bottom of the baking dish, all facing one way. A spoonful of sauce was thinly coated over each piece of eggplant, and then very thin slices of cheese on top of this. The next layer of eggplant was placed on top of this, but facing in the other direction. Again, sauce and cheese was placed on top, and I let this sit (the eggplant was absorbing the sauce a bit) until ready to be baked.
You sauce is very important also. I used a jar of good quality sauce that is not heavy, but flavorful. You want to use (or make) a good marinara type sauce that is light and not overpowering.
This was baked at 350 degrees for approximately 35-40 minutes until the cheese was melted, and I could see that the sauce around the edges of the dish were bubbling slightly.
I tried to show you how thin the eggplant was sliced. This is TWO layers of eggplant with cheese. Now THAT'S thin!