Holiday supper tables, laden with everyone’s favorite foods, are usually more challenging to execute than to dream about, even for the experienced cook. Recognizing this, more and more home cooks are asking for help, especially around the holidays.

Celebrating with a family meal is a time honored tradition; preparing the entire meal from scratch, by yourself, doesn’t have to be. Thankfully, the Outer Banks has an abundance of talented caterers and chefs who focus on creative ingredient combinations, as well as fanciful presentations. Make use of their services by ordering from them for your own events, big or small, and yes, a holiday is an event that qualifies.

You need not order an entire meal, either; simply pick and choose what sounds good, what takes the most time to for you to prepare, or order just the things you do not want to make.

It is OK to do this, too.

Sometimes that is the hardest part, letting go. Give yourself permission to let your good neighbors help. Most will happily provide pick up or drop off services and some even offer set up of clever food displays.

Make the festivities your own by continuing to use your beloved platters and treasured family keepsakes. These pieces maintain the tradition of your meal and are the perfect way to display the bounties you gather, lovingly prepared by the hands of dedicated makers, even if not your hands. Take a minute to remind yourself that transferring dinner from to-go containers to grandma’s platter is not a sin.

There is a good chance she would endorse using your time to cuddle the kids, visit with a guest or share a toast with a neighbor, rather than fuss over peeling pounds of potatoes.

In case you need a little help more getting started, here are a few ideas:

Hire a chef

Chef Mike Mazza of The Shore Chef can come to your home and prepare your entire meal, soup to nuts, if you want to do no preparation at all, “the full package holiday meal service includes choice of meat, choice of sides, and a choice of dessert, or, a whole lot more” he laughed, when asked about his services.

“Desserts, I try and stick to traditional with a twist, something that is simple, but tasty,” Mazza says. “Bread pudding, pumpkin cheesecake, spiked pecan pie, sweet potato pie. I also offer a choice of freshly baked breads like sweet potato biscuits, pumpkins rosemary rolls or angel flake biscuits.”

Mazza also is available to help you coordinate your big meal and then cook and drop off your favorite sides. He can even bring along food for the next morning, “I offer a variety of breakfast casseroles,” he shared, “two of the most popular are the Oatmeal Bake, with optional chocolate chips, and the Breakfast Strata with either sausage or spinach. They feed 8-10 people and people really seem to love them.”

Have fun trying a few new things this year. Your new helper might even try something along with you and everyone wins.

“Primarily, I cook for single families, but I can accommodate dinners up to 40 people,” he says. “I usually ask what sides the clients would like because sometimes I don’t have listed their favorite side dish. The fun thing with the holiday dinners, for me, is once the clients have decided on their unique sides, I usually make that side for my family, as well.”

Hit up your favorite restaurant

Another way to economize your time, and support local businesses at the same time, is by creating a holiday spread filled with other people’s food. Depending on your neighborhood eatery, there is a good chance your favorite restaurant has a dish you can pick up and add to your table. Be creative, this is a great time to try non-traditional holiday dishes.

Why not ask if that hot crab dip you love is available in a group size? If it is, order it cold and ask how to heat.

Order by course

Platters of Oysters

Raw, steamed or hot off the grill on a cookie sheet, we love our platters of oysters. The local harvesters are busy this time of year and their oysters are limited in quantity; make sure you order early. Contact the local harvesters directly or buy through a local monger like Coastal Provisions, known for its dedication to the bivalve.

A seafood cornucopia

Gather everyone around the table to share a seafood steamer pot. Steamers in Southern Shores packs everything you need into a pot, you just provide the napkins. Their signature Steamer Pots To Go® feature your choice of seafood (shrimp, clams, crab, mussels) plus red bliss potatoes, corn on the cob, Italian sausage, yellow onion. This could be an entire meal before the big meal. You do the steaming.

Desserts

This is where it gets complicated, because there are so many great bakers from which to choose.

Becky Miller, pastry chef/owner of Simply Sweet OBX, could be the most prolific pastry chef the Outer Banks has ever known.

Extraordinarily talented, she can fulfill any of your holiday treat desires, from traditional to fanciful. You have probably eaten her desserts in one of the many restaurants she now services, tried her award winning desserts at a local event or remember her desserts from her years of working with Kelly’s Restaurant and Tavern, where she sweetened us for decades.

So, if you need traditional holiday pies, she is the person to call; if you need something sophisticated and uptown, call her.

Other Meals

One delicious and abbondanza option is to stop by It’s All Gravy in Nags Head, and pick up a frozen, family size, heat and eat meal.

Perfect for the ‘night before,’ pick up frozen lasagna or stuffed raviolis and gravy (sauce!) the week before and cross off your list. All you need to do is thaw and pop in the oven to heat. Add a salad and you are feeding the whole crowd.

Be sure to stop by It’s All Gravy and chat about all kinds of delicious special orders.

Every night qualifies as the night before, if you think about it.

Amy Gaw is a food entrepreneur who has eaten, cooked and written about food on the Outer Banks and surrounding areas for more than three decades. A clean food advocate with a focus on local seafood, Gaw is also a salt maker and the founder of Outer Banks SeaSalt.

Amy Gaw is a food entrepreneur who has eaten, cooked and written about food on the Outer Banks and surrounding areas for more than three decades. A clean food advocate with a focus on local seafood, Gaw is also a salt maker and the founder of Outer Banks SeaSalt.

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