Wednesday, February 20, 2013

It's almost over: #TopChef (and how to revive an inactive sourdough starter)

The Top Chef finale is coming soon - it's on Wednesday, February 27 at 10/9c - and I'm ready to make my prediction for the winner.

Drumroll, please ...

I'm predicting it will be Brooke. 

She started off feeling like an underdog, but has gained confidence and has won quickfires and challenges.. In the quickfire in the Even the Famous Come Home episode, she made an apple crostata with cheddar cheese in the crust.

I mean, really, that's something I might make. In fact, there's a good chance I will make something similar soon. Hmmmm. Maybe that's why I like her - because her cooking style fits so well with mine. When she was talking about the judge's comment about her crostata, she said, "It never really feels like a compliment when you're in a room full of chefs and you've made the 'homey' dish."

But she ended up winning the quickfire. So "homey" wasn't so bad after all.

I also like her because she didn't get involved in a lot of the drama. During the Restaurant Wars episode, when the chefs were at the Judges table there were fireworks between Kristen and Josie, but Brooke didn't get involved.

One of the judges asked, "How did the day go for you, Brooke?"

She answered, "Quickly."

Another one of her dishes that I really liked was the raised chicken from the Glacial Gourmet episode. That was another dish that I could imagine making at home. I mean, I've made braised chicken before. Many times. Recently, even.

She doesn't like boats or heights or confined spaces, but deals with them all. I get it. I don't like heights, either. I completely get it. But she didn't let that stop her. When she was in a helicopter in the Glacial Gourmet episode, you could see how scared she was at first, but then she finally opened her eyes and enjoyed the scenery.

And then later, she said how much she loved the scenery. Go, girl! And then she had a blast dogsledding. That really looked like fun. That was one of my favorite little non-cooking moments in the season.

And then she won the quickfire and got immunity in the next challenge.

The dish she made sounded pretty crazy to me = lamb-stuffed squid. The judges loved it and it was the first time I remember her stepping that far out of her usual comfort zone. Although I thought the dish was a little crazy (and I'm still not sure if I'd like it) I liked that she could have slacked off since she had immunity, but instead she went with something madly creative. Of course, it also could have gone horribly wrong, but it didn't. And she ended up winning a Toyota Prius.

Nobody's ever offered me a car for my cooking. How about you?

My favorite challenge - the one that I would have loved to cook along with - came in the Kings of Alaska episode. The chefs all made sourdough bread. I love making bread, and I love sourdough. I've got NINE different sourdough starters in my refrigerator right now. Some are relatively young, and one of them dates back to the 1800's.

But enough about me. Brooke made a sourdough that included dill. And she won the challenge..

Sourdough Tip:
How to Revive an Inactive Sourdough Starter

I've done a lot of posts about sourdough, including a step-by-step, day-by-day tutorial for getting a starter going. It uses nothing but flour and water, and although no system is foolproof, it has worked for me over and over.

BUT. Sometimes a starter doesn't get lively enough. Sometimes it bubbles but never rises up in the jar. Or sometimes you store a starter a little too long, and it it gets really, really sleepy. And it doesn't want to wake up.

Then what do you do? It's a question I get asked A LOT.

And the answer is pretty simple.

Throw out all but about a tablespoon of starter. You don't have to throw out the "discarded" starter. you can add it to a yeast dough for flavor, or add it to a quickbread for flavor, or add it to pancakes or waffles. The point is that you don't want to use it to grow your starter. You just want that one little tablespoon.

If the jar that you keep your starter in is particularly nasty-looking, you can take that tablespoon and put it in a clean jar.

Then, begin feeding the starter aggressively, doubling the amount each time, and feeding 2-3 times each day. After 2-3 days, you should have a very lively starter that's ready to use. And since you're doubling each time, you should have plenty to use.

And that's it. You should be ready to bake, just like a Top Chef.

I think my next sourdough will include dill, just like the one Brooke made. Yup, I like the way that gal cooks!

Who's your favorite? Who do you think will win?

I'll be hosting a Top Chef Twitter party on Tuesday, February 26 at 1 p.m est - that's the day before the finale. Follow me (@dbcurrie) on Twitter and you might want to follow @BravoTopChef too. Look for the hashtags #TopChef and  #winTopChefswag and join the party to win some stuff! No registration needed.

Get the party started!

Tweet this: Save the date: @dbcurrie + @BravoTopChef will be hosting a #TopChef Twitter chat on 2/26 at 1pm EST. #winTopChefswag

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