Holiday Entertaining Tips from Jerry’s Foods in Woodbury

Many families are joining the trend toward catering and carry-out alternatives.
Kim Miller with a fresh vegetable tray from Jerry’s Foods.

Whoever coined the phrase “the more the merrier” probably didn’t have party hosts in mind. While we love to catch up with our 15 cousins and 17 grandkids, hosting the whole crew can sometimes feel more like a headache than a holiday. If the season has you scratching your head over flourless pie and Paleo stuffing recipes, or wondering where the dining room table leaf is, Nancy Ecker, food and beverage operations manager at the Woodbury Jerry’s Foods, has the answer: order out. “More and more people are catering their Thanksgiving dinner every year,” she says.

For the occasion, Jerry’s offers a full heat-and-eat feast that serves 8-10 people and includes all the classics: turkey, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, gravy, glazed carrots, cranberry sauce, dinner rolls and pumpkin pie. “It’s a perfect way to still have the same aroma of all the fixings in your home [without having] to go shopping [for all the ingredients],” Ecker says. “It’s a major stress reliever, and [at $89.99], the price is right. Plus, it tastes good.”

In addition to this complete feast, Jerry’s has many options to supplement your home-cooked holiday fare. The deli case features about 30 chilled salads and 15 hot “meal solutions” daily, with everything from whole chickens to pot pies and quiches. The signature Swedish meatballs are another superb carry-out option. “Just throw them in your crockpot and you’re ready to roll,” Ecker says.

Fruit and veggie trays, spinach dip, deviled eggs, shrimp cocktail and sandwich sliders on pretzel buns are just some of the no-brainer appetizers from Jerry’s. “Cheese and crackers are usually a safe bet. People who love cheese, love cheese,” Ecker says. For large parties, choose from a variety of cheese platters, such as the C’est Cheese, an elegant pairing of specialty and imported cheeses with fruits and nuts [$75]; for smaller gatherings, you can create your own custom spread.

“Special orders are welcome. We can make just about anything,” Ecker says. There is no minimum or maximum size for catering orders, and Jerry’s can deliver for a fee of $25 (within a 15-mile radius).

And what of the most important course? “Pie is an important part of the meal,” Ecker says. “Our bakery department is fabulous.” There you’ll find must-haves like pecan, apple, pumpkin and sweet potato pies, which can be purchased whole, in halves, or by the slice [$9.99-12.99/whole].

When she totes sweets to a holiday get-together, Jaime Vanderwoude, one of Jerry’s award-winning pastry chefs, goes with something pumpkin-flavored, like the pumpkin bars sold at Jerry’s. Studded with walnuts and raisins and topped with cream cheese, these luscious bars are so popular that they’ve become a year-round staple [$2.49 per piece].

For “more upscale, specialty desserts,” Vanderwoude suggests the array of homemade pastries. “A lot of people come in for our gourmet cupcakes, fruit tarts and petit fours,” she says. Among these, her personal favorite is the rum-spiked and chocolate mascarpone-filled raspberry victoria, which, like many of Jerry’s desserts, is gluten-free [$5.29]. The decadent utopia is another popular flourless confection. Vanderwoude says her team sells 50 to 60 individual portions of these fudge-like cakes per weekend [$5.29/each].

Holiday Hosting Tips

Think ahead. “You want to get your thoughts on paper at least a week or two in advance of a party,” Ecker says. And there’s no need to save the food prep for the day-of, either. “Some foods, like chilis, soups and pasta salads, will actually taste better when prepared days in advance,” she says.

Don’t go it alone. “Don’t ever turn down help!” Ecker says. When it comes to setup, a few extra hands can make a big difference, and allowing your guests to bring a dish can go a long way in easing your burden. “I [tell my guests], ‘bring something your kids will like.’ I always cater around the kids, [because] if they’re happy, everyone is.”

Keep it simple. “Stick to the basics, so you’re sure everybody’s going to like it,” Ecker says, “I [opt for dishes] that are easy to plug in, like chili-cheese dip, artichoke-jalapeno dip, or wild rice soup, which can be served right out of a crockpot.”

Keep it cool. If your event features any catered fare, be sure you have adequate space in the fridge. “[Alternatively, you could use] large bowls filled with ice. For really big parties, I use a toboggan.” If you order a party tray from Jerry’s Foods, you can convert the plastic dome lid into an ice bath. Set the tray on top to keep your veggies or deli meats lightly chilled for several hours. For hot foods, Ecker suggests using roasters and crockpots, in addition to your oven. “Crockpots do vary, so be sure the temperature is set low enough, so you’re not boiling [your food],” Ecker says. “And if you’re plugging in multiple [appliances], make sure you have an extension cord [or a surge protector], so you don’t pop a fuse!”

Round up. Quantities can be tricky, but Ecker recommends erring on the side of surplus. “Know your group. Are they big eaters? Age is important. Teenagers eat a lot, [while] elderly folks [tend not to]. The time of the party is important, too. If you have leftovers, it’s not a bad thing, but you never want to run out. ”