Hypoallergenic Chicken Parmesan

Time Taken: 30-60 minutes active, another 30 passive.
Serves: 4+
Allergens: Typically only butter/cheese/dairy

As a main course, depending on the appetite of the guests and the size of the chicken breasts, the amounts given will serve 4-8. Leftovers reheat great. It's easy to make; it's very forgiving of any sort of error. It scales very well; I've made this dish in a normal-sized kitchen to serve 30. If someone is allergic to one of the vegetables, consider the deconstructed option at the bottom or just omit it.


  1. Prepare the chicken: This can be done ahead. Clean off all extra fat and tendons. Pound to 1/2" thickness. (If you haven't done much of that, put the meat on a wooden cutting board, cover with a layer of plastic wrap, and pound it flat from the middle out to the ends. A rolling pin is a good tool to do the pounding.) If flattening is difficult, make cutlets by cutting the very long way into 1/2" slices, typically 2-3 per breast. Pounding works better. In either case, the tender can be treated separately, either as a very small piece or to use for something else later, depending on its size. If you pound them, you almost certainly will want to cut them in half the short way. They will absorb a great deal of moisture and become quite thick. That's my preferred approach.
  2. Prepare (cut/clean) the vegetables: This can be done a day ahead, though the peppers really ought to wait until the last minute.
  3. In a large preferably cast iron skillet, heat two tbsp. of olive oil to shimmering (about 350, medium heat). Grind black pepper onto each side of the chicken breasts. Sautee flipping once until each side is browned, about 5 minutes per side. Cook in batches. Set aside, covered. Add a little more olive oil between each batch, just enough to coat the bottom of the skillet.
  4. If you have enough skillets/etc., Steps 3-6 can be done at the same time. Prepare the onions. In a cast iron skillet, heat 2 tbsp of oil to shimmering (about 350) and add the cut onions. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring once in a while, until onions are soft, about 15 minutes. About halfway (the onions should have just turned a little soft, not completely so yet) add about 2-3 oz. of cream sherry and combine, stirring until it is evaporated (optional). There will be no alcohol left; this is to add caramelizing sugars. Set aside. If you have to do most of these one at a time, get the onions going first; they take the longest.
  5. Melt 2 tbps of unsalted butter in a smaller skillet (or the same one, cleaning each time). Add mushrooms and coat with the butter. Add granulated garlic. Amount depends on preferences (can be as little as zero). Mix well. Cook on medium-low (about 300) until liquid is released, then continue cooking, stirring once in a while, until it is evaporated and covers the vegetables. Set aside.
  6. In a medium saucepan, heat 2 tbsp canola oil until shimmering (about 400, or medium high). Add bell peppers and cook stirring, until mildly wilted, about 3-5 minutes. Set aside.
  7. Preheat oven to 350F.
  8. Assemble casserole: Use any of a 9"x13" glass baking dish (holds 4-6), metal roasting pan, or large foil disposable pan(s), depending on how big a meal you are making. If you are using glass, lightly butter the bottom and sides (just to help cleanup). Put a thin layer of red sauce on the bottom of the pan. Add the onions, mushrooms, and peppers in layers. Add some red sauce. The vegetable layer should still be pretty firm; this sauce is just enough to fill up air spaces between the vegetables. Layer the chicken on top. Add a full layer of red sauce; spread with a wooden spoon so that nothing but red sauce is visible, but not much more than that. Add a layer of shredded mozzarella. It should be thick enough that you can barely see the red sauce and should easily cover all the chicken. If the pan is jammed full (mine always is), go edge to edge. Add some of shredded parmesan on top of each breast. Not enough to pile up, but enough for 2/3 coverage or so. This can be done up to half a day in advance. If so, cover with plastic wrap and chill. Let return to room temperature before final baking. It can sit out for at least an hour, no problem.
  9. Bake uncovered at 350 for half an hour. Cheese should be browned. If not, run under a broiler at 500F for 2-3 minutes until it is browned to your preference level. Serve immediately. You probably want the dish on a towel or trivet; it will be hot. If using noodles, either put vegetables then chicken on top (no extra sauce should be needed, but ought to be an option for some guests) or on the side.
  10. Deconstructed version: This is best for large groups. Someone in a group of 25 is going to have problems with one or more of the vegetables. Just assemble the casserole with no vegetables; reserve them on the side and cook them while the chicken is in the oven. You can time them all to get done at the same time if you have enough cooktop space/pans. Serve all the pieces (including the optional pasta) in separate dishes and let the guests combine them as they wish.
  11. Sirloin strips: This general recipe works very well for beef, too. If you have a big chunk of sirloin (no more than 1-1/4" thick), you can substitute beef for chicken. Cut sirloin into 1/4" thick strips against the grain and about 2" long. Brown the strips in some hot olive oil for about 2 minutes in batches. They should just barely start releasing moisture then. Keep the liquid and add it in when you add the red sauce. Otherwise, make it the same way. Do not overcook. It's best if you do only 15 minutes in casserole and then run it through the broiler to get the cheese browned. That will depend on how well done your guests like their beef. 30 minutes will be medium-well; 15 minutes just a tad rarer than medium, though doneness levels will depend on a lot of factors; experience will help. You'll need to serve it with a large spoon. It will be a little wetter than the chicken. Not a problem. If you have some fresh thyme, add some to the broth (about 6 sprigs per pound of beef) before going into the casserole. If you add some shredded cheese in the middle of the beef layer and mix a bit, it'll be a little sturdier; the casserole will hold together well.

© Jeff Goldsmith, July 21, 2021