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  • Eat, Darling, Eat

Layers

Updated: Mar 1

(by Christine Celozzi)

My mother, my mother, my mother. She’s a complex character with multiple layers, some of which I’ve grown to understand, while others remain a mystery to me. Shall I describe the side that was nurturing, thoughtful, and constantly insisting that she put more food on your plate? Or the harder side, the side that proved she survived an Irish Catholic family in the heart of Boston with nine children, including two sets of twins born 15 months apart (she was half of the first set).

Mom is made of sugar and vinegar, sweet and sour, not afraid to tell you exactly what she thinks of anything, but also appreciative of what she considers the good things in life, like flowers, nature, great interior design—and cleanliness. The aroma that my siblings and I most associate with our mother would be a combination of her homemade spaghetti sauce, Chanel No. 5, and bleach.

Heading into my 30s, watching my older sister raise her three children, I often look back and wonder how my mother handled three active kids, curious as cats, constantly finding new ways of mischief, and unafraid of stating our personal opinions, typically in situations where it was less than ideal. Imagine that you’ve spent hours making a wonderful surprise: stuffed chicken, from your own recipe. You set the table and light candles. Then the kids get home and announce that they want Kraft macaroni and cheese.

Here’s where my mother is set apart from other mothers. Her response: “If you don’t want the chicken, then you can starve.” Boom. Fire in her eyes. The suggestion of starvation wasn’t neglect, it was a lesson. And if my mother believed anything, it was: Teach them while they’re young. If you’re not making the dinner, you don’t get to choose what you’ll eat. The lesson taught respect and sent a message that sometimes you may voice an opinion but the answer is No.

As an adult, finally taking an interest in family recipes, I quickly realized how important that stuffed chicken was to her. And I was able to unveil one more layer of her mystery.

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Christine Celozzi can be found at www.christinecelozzi.com and @christinecelozzi.

Stuffed Chicken

8 - 10 oz. Ritz crackers, crumbled

1 sweet sausage, casing removed

1 hot sausage, casing removed

8 oz. grated Romano cheese, plus additional to taste

2 eggs

large roasting chicken, approximately 6 - 7 lb.

2 lb. potatoes, quartered

1/2 lb. carrots, chopped

4 celery stalks, chopped

1/4 c. Italian dressing, or more to taste

salt and pepper to taste

3 - 4 T. fresh parsley, chopped

15 oz. can chicken broth

Preheat oven to 325 F.

In a frying pan over medium heat, combine crackers and sausages, breaking up as they cook.

Stir in Romano cheese.

Remove to a bowl and add eggs.

Form mixture into a ball and stuff in the cavity of the chicken.

Put chicken in a roasting pot with the potatoes, carrots and celery.

Add salt and pepper, parsley, Italian dressing, and additional cheese to taste.

Pour chicken broth around the vegetables.

Cover the pan and roast without uncovering for at least 3 hours.

Chicken is done when an instant-read thermometer inserted between the leg and the breast, without touching the bone, reads between 160 and 165 degrees, or if the juices run clear when a knife is inserted between the leg and the breast.