My mother was the chief executive cpa of an accounting firm. My dad was a mailman. They would leave for work at the same time - 6:15 am. As a child, I remember countless evenings where my mom came home from work late and tired, sometimes as late as 7 pm. It made me sad. However every time she got home I felt relief knowing she made it safe. She’d walk in the door, drop her briefcase, give my dad a kiss, hug her children, gently took off her pumps, and then trotted upstairs to change out of her business suit. On the other hand, I took comfort in knowing that my dad came home every afternoon around 4-4:30 pm. His schedule was very regimented. Even in the harsh winters of Chicago he always managed to get home early enough to cook us dinner. We were latchkey kids so by the time he got home I was already parked in front of the tv, not doing my homework. He’d walk in the door, give my sisters and me kisses, ask us if we did our homework, and then told us to go outside and play. He’d then run up the stairs, change out of his blue and gray USPS uniform, and then came down to the kitchen, his favorite place to be. His afternoons were spent whipping up the best meal for his wife and daughters. We were always grateful. Now, because my mom had a busy work schedule, she didn’t cook often, but when she did cook – it was always so delicious. And because her cooking was few and far between, it was special! I cherished her cooking because I knew that it made her happy to do something for us other than provide. And as a mother now, I understand the value of special times spent with my family. My 2 favorite dishes my mom made were her baked Mostaccioli and her whole roasted chicken. Baked Mostaccioli is a classic Italian-Chicago based recipe that my mom would cook to perfection. The blend of herb tomatoes and mouthwatering gooey cheese was always to die for! I have to say that her chicken was even better than her Mostaccioli! Never have I ever had chicken so juicy and oozing with flavor! The skin of the chicken was always crispy and golden-brown and the meat was tantalizingly tender. I even loved the simplicity of sweet onions and savory garlic that she stuffed the cavity of the chicken with! This recipe resonated with me all my life.
Fast forward a few years down the road, right after my high school graduation. That summer, my 3 best friends and I took a road trip 8 hours north to Hayward, Wisconsin. We were young women about to enter adulthood and we thought the best way to celebrate our “coming of age” was to do a girls’ trip at my best friend Lisa’s family vacation home on the lake. So the four of us - Lisa, Ellie, Danielle, and I jumped in Ellie’s parent’s minivan, and took off for our 5-day trip. The road trip consisted of endless laughter and classic rock cds. We were an interesting group of girls because at the time, mainstream music composed of Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and TLC. However we preferred to listen to Led Zeppelin, The Doors, and Jimi Hendrix. Our music taste reflected our style as we dressed in tie-die tank tops, cut-off jean shorts, and flip-flops.
When we arrived in Hayward we stopped by the store to pick up groceries and you know, other stuff. Luckily for us, I had a fake ID so we filled our car with beer and liquor. Most of our days at the house consisted of lying out on the deck during the day, and then having drinks under the stars at night. We munched on burgers, chips, and frozen pizzas. We also watched sad movies while sipping on cocktails. This stirred up all sorts of teenage angst and emotions. Ellie and I are the dramatic/artsy types of the group so we took our turns crying. Level-headed Lisa and down-to-earth Danielle were quick to console us. This was truly a special trip with memories that would and has lasted a lifetime. Because this trip was special, I thought it deserved a special treat. And because they are my best girlfriends who I hold dear to my heart, and still do till this day, I wanted to do something memorable. I decided to do something I’ve never done for them before, cook dinner! Instantly I decided to make my mom’s chicken! I loved it so much and I knew they would too, and honestly how hard could it be? Now at this time only the wealthy had Internet, so I had to prepare the dinner blindly with no recipe and only faint memories of how my mom made it. I was too proud to call my mom and ask for help. I knew I could do this on my own. So I gathered my ingredients and chopped my onions, celery, garlic, and ginger. I stuffed the cavity of the chicken with my veggies, added a bit of salt and pepper, and threw it in the oven. I think I cooked it at 400 degrees, can’t really remember. After 45 minutes, I peeped in the oven. The chicken was the exact same color as my mom’s chicken was when she pulled it out of the oven, it had to be ready.
“Ok guys! Time to eat!” I said as we started setting the table and gathering our drinks.
I sliced into the chicken and served each of my friends one by one. “Wow, Heath! Smells great!” Said Lisa. “Yeah, thanks Heath!” Chimed in Ellie and Danielle!
After we take the first couple bites, “Heather, are you sure this is cooked all the way?” Lisa asks.
“Yeah, I think so. It’s looks just like my mom’s chicken.” I replied
“I don’t know, Heath. It looks a little red right here.” Says Danielle as she points to the thigh.
“I’m sure it’s fine right, Heather?” Ellie said.
“Yeah guys, I think it’s fine. We can eat it.” I said biting into the breast of the chicken.
As we continued to eat the chicken, I realized that I have the most supportive friends. They kept eating the chicken knowing that it could have been raw. Since we were new at this cooking thing, we couldn't tell if the chicken was raw or not. We did a decent job of avoiding the questionable parts, and finished most of what was left. In my eyes, dinner was a success.
After dinner we cleaned up the table. Shortly after we went to bed because we had to hit the road back to Chicago early in the morning.
I heard fumbling going on in the other room. I got up to check the clock, it was 12:37 am.
“Ellie, what’s wrong?" I said.
“I feel sick. I feel like I need to throw up.” Ellie replied
Lisa and Danielle both got up to see what was happening.
“What’s going on?” Lisa asks.
“El is sick.” I said.
“What?? Was it the chicken??” Danielle exclaims with a bit of laughter behind her response.
“Heather, I’m sorry but I think it’s the chicken.” Ellie says, looking at me with sad eyes.
I was mortified! Lisa and Danielle couldn’t control their laughter. Ellie is holding her stomach, trying not to vomit. And here’s me, pacing back and forth apologizing profusely, unaware of how to handle the situation.
“Heather you gave her food poisoning!” Lisa says with laughter.
“I’m so sorry! I'm so sorry, El! How do you guys feel? Do you feel sick?” I looked toward Lisa and Danielle. They both shook their heads no, still laughing.
For the rest of the evening we took to Ellie’s aide and attempted to nurse her back to health. I couldn’t believe I poisoned my best friend.
It was a long ride back. All three of them had boyfriends waiting for them at home, I was single. Prior to that trip I recently went thru a bad break-up from a very unfortunate relationship. It was a tough couple years after high school; attempting to find my way while going to music school, community college, and healing from my prior relationship. However, I found a glimpse of happiness when I figured out what I truly wanted to go to school for.
“Lisa, guess what? I know what I want to do with my life!" I said.
“Congrats, Heath! What is it? What do you want to do?"
“Culinary school! I want to be a chef!”
“Heather, you can’t cook! Don’t you remember Hayward?”
Here’s is the clean-eating version of my mom’s famous chicken, don’t worry – it won’t turn out raw.
Mama Larican’s Whole Roasted Chicken (made clean the sassy way)
1 3-4 lb whole chicken, giblets removed
3 Tbsp coconut oil, divided
1 onion, quartered
4 cloves of garlic, left whole
1 lemon, quartered
3 carrots, peeled and chopped small on a bias
3 celery stalks, chopped small on a bias
1 medium piece of ginger, peeled and rough chopped
¼ cup of liquid aminos or coconut aminos, divided
2 tablespoons vinegar (any kind)
Prep: 15 min Cook: 1 hr 15 min Yields: 4
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a roasting pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
Prepare the vegetables as listed above and chop them evenly. Place the veggies in a bowl and mix together with vinegar, tablespoon of coconut oil, lemons, a dash of salt, pepper, and half of the liquid aminos. Set aside.
Rinse the chicken inside and out and then pat dry with a paper towel. Generously rub 1 tablespoon of salt, and 2 teaspoons of black pepper on the outside of the chicken, in between the skin and the breast, and inside of the cavity. Rub 1 tablespoon of coconut oil, and the rest of the liquid aminos the exact same way.
Stuff the cavity of the chicken with vegetable mixture. If you have leftover vegetables, place them on the roasting pan.
Take your kitchen twine and tie the legs of the chicken together. Place the chicken, breast side down, inside the roasting pan on top of the vegetables. Place pan in the oven and roast for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Take roasting pa out of the oven. Juices of the chicken should be running clear. If you have a meat thermometer, the temp should read at least 165 degrees for doneness. Cover with foil.
Let chicken sit for 20 minutes before serving time. Chop chicken in pieces and use the broth that was created during the cooking process as your sauce! Enjoy!!
This recipe is Paleo and Whole 30 approved!