From America's Test Kitchen Season 5: In an Italian-American Kitchen
Frying the eggplant for this classic Italian dish not only is time-consuming but also can make the dish heavy and dull. In hopes of eliminating the grease as well as some of the prep time, we decided to cook the eggplant in the oven and see what other measures we could take to freshen up this Italian classic.
We salted and drained the eggplant slices to remove bitterness and improve the texture. A traditional bound breading—flour, egg, and fresh bread crumbs—worked best for giving the eggplant a crisp coating. Baking the eggplant on preheated and oiled baking sheets resulted in crisp, golden brown slices. While the eggplant was in the oven, we made a quick tomato sauce using garlic, red pepper flakes, basil, and canned diced tomatoes. We layered the sauce, eggplant, and mozzarella in a baking dish and left the top layer of eggplant mostly unsauced, so that it would crisp up in the oven. Our re-engineered eggplant Parmesan was lighter and fresher tasting, and a lot less work.
Serves 6 to 8
Use kosher salt when salting the eggplant. The coarse grains don't dissolve as readily as the fine grains of regular table salt, so any excess can be easily wiped away. To be time-efficient, use the 30 to 45 minutes during which the salted eggplant sits to prepare the breading, cheeses, and sauce.