Gordon Deutsch Q&A

Born in Tacoma 48 years ago, chef Gordon Deutsch began his restaurant career at age 16 at Johnny’s Dock in Tacoma.

After five years there, he moved up the road and worked at the Tacoma Dome for four years, where he learned from some very good chef-teachers. He moved to Ocean Shores in 1989 to re-open the Misfit restaurant on the golf course, then slid over to Mariah’s at the Polynesian in 1992. Deutsch got comfortable and has been there for two decades. He offers some tips and tricks for Thanksgiving dinner this year.

What is on the menu at Mariah’s for Thanksgiving dinner and what goes into planning and preparing such a meal? Are reservations necessary?

This is the 20th year doing our Thanksgiving buffet with carved-to-your-order turkey, honey-baked ham, made-from-scratch stuffing and gravy, mashed spuds, yams, oven-baked corn, cranberry sauce, cobb and fruit salads, an array of desserts — of course pumpkin pie. It costs $16.95 for adults, $14.95 for seniors and is served from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. Reservations are strongly recommended. Planning starts about two weeks out by getting staff lined up and food orders penciled out. Turkeys come in about a week out, as it takes them that long to slow thaw in the refers. It’s a long night of preparation before the big day, and then a well-timed staging of turkey roasting on Thanksgiving. I will have a dozen 25-pound birds that get cooked, usually a bird or so left over for our crew to enjoy at the end.

What are your personal favorite things about preparing and serving a Thanksgiving dinner?

My favorite thing is getting the stuffing AND gravy just right, as they have got to be good, then the warm feeling you get from all the satisfied customers who tell you it’s a great meal, and no clean up for them to do.

What are some tips you can offer and some of the mistakes home cooks can make when preparing a turkey? Do you recommend stuffing the bird? How do you get a nice, crispy skin?

I like to rub down the turkey with melted butter, shake on some seasoned salt and a little bit of cajun seasoning. I swear by the secret to a moist turkey — cook it breast side down in the pan. For crispiness, don’t cover it and use a quality meat thermometer to keep an eye on the doneness. Remove turkey just as it hits 165 degrees in several test areas, as it will cook a little more out of the oven. I remove the parts from inside the bird before cooking and start a stock with them for gravy. Stuffing the bird is pretty old school. I never do. Not only is it safer and less hassle, but the bird will cook faster. We have all had a turkey delay, I’m sure!

What are some of the basic guidelines about safely thawing frozen turkey and then dealing with the leftovers?

Really, the safest way at home to thaw your turkey is slowly in the refridgerator. With an average 15-pound bird, this can take almost a week, so plan ahead. It’s also a good idea to rinse the turkey inside and out in the sink before getting it ready for the oven. Remember to safely cool your leftovers. You need to cut the turkey down into smaller pieces to speed the cooling. Don’t cover and get them into the fridge asap. Don’t fall asleep in the armchair for three hours while turkey sits on the counter. The next day, you can make smaller portions of meat to wrap up and freeze to have a nice treat for another meal.

For people who don’t enjoy turkey, what are some good alternative main courses for Thanksgiving?

Don’t like turkey? What’s a matta you?! But you can’t go wrong with a herb-crusted roast prime rib, baked ham or a dijon pork roast.

Since cranberries are a local crop, can you offer some tips or recommendations for dealing with fresh cranberries?

If you’re using fresh cranberries to make your sauce, always sort through them to remove any sub-par berries and rinse with cold water. Don’t overcook them either, they will pop when ready, the addition of some orange pieces and zest is a nice touch.

What’s your one personal favorite Thanksgiving food and why?

It’s hard to nail down a favorite as I am a fan of all things Thanksgiving-related, but the stuffing with some gravy — if I had to choose. I look forward to it each year, kind of a once-a-year treat.

If you would, could you share one or two cool recipes our readers might want to try making for a holiday meal.

Grandma’s stuffing

Prepare this the day ahead so it’s ready to just pop in the oven, then you can concentrate on everything else:

One onion

Several celery stalks

Cooked italian sausage (an nice extra touch)

1 tsp. each of sage, poultry seasoning and oregano

A pinch of thyme

Lots of butter

Turkey or chicken stock

One each loaf of white, wheat, and egg bread, left out to air a little the day before, then break up in pieces by hand.

Place the broken bread into a big bowl

Saute the onion, celery, sausage and all the seasonings in butter and pour over bread in bowl. Add stock and mix all together, adding enough stock to get the texture right. Season with some salt and pepper and a few dashes of Worchestershire sauce, to your taste. Spread out in a shallow baking pan. Add a little more stock, cover with foil, before baking in oven for about 45 minutes. Remove foil, bake for another 15 minutes to get the top just a little crispy. Enjoy!