Saturday, May 27, 2006
Crispy Fried Talapia with a Side of Auto Body Repair
For this recipe you will need two fillets of a mildly-flavored fish about 1/2 inch thick, 1 1/2 cups bread machine flour, 3/4 cups water, 1 T vegetable oil, 1 clove garlic, 1 t dried dill, 1 t salt, fresh-ground white pepper and a slightly dented sports car.
Wed 24 May, 2006
This morning as I was backing into my parking place at work I got a bit too close to the car on my passenger side and my right side mirror scraped his right rear body-panel. His bumper also scuffed my car right in front of the passenger door, pushing it in slightly. Resisting the temptation to go park somewhere else, I left a card under his wiper and went in to work. He and I chatted later and after a brief discussion with the local police, the exchage of insurance information, etc. he was good to go and get his car fixed on my insurance company's dime. That left my car to deal with.
In general one doesn't want to file a lot of small claims against one's insurance. It's not quite the same as Machiavelli's admonition never to do one's enemies small injuries but the concept is close. If you make your insurance pay for small problems the amount you save is generally less than the increase in your premiums. Since my dent isn't very big I decided to deal with it myself.
The first problem to deal with was that the side of the car was pushed in just enough for the front edge of the door to catch on it when the door was opened and closed. I stopped by an auto parts store on my way home and bought a cheap suction cup dent puller.
When I got home I pulled over the garden hose to wet the car for better suction and had at the dent. I was not wildly successful. The problem was the raised letters "V6" on the dented area that made it difficult to get a proper seal. If I got the car really wet and held down the edges of the suction cup with my other hand I could get a bit of a tug, but not enough. Water would seal the gap briefly but was insufficiently viscous to hold against air pressure long enough to pull out the dent. It seemed clear to me that I needed something thicker -- gooier -- something a bit like polygrip.
I am an uncertain mechanic, to put it as charitably as possible, but I am a pretty good cook. If I can change a problem into a culinary problem I can usually solve it. So, needing some kind of goo, I dashed into the kitchen and made myself some goo. It should be noted that I was under some time pressure here. I was scheduled to do supper that night and the wife would be home in half an hour. If she got home to find that I had dented my car and not fixed supper that would not be good.
I grabbed a small bowl and dumped in about 1 1/2 cups of bread machine flour. I added a bit less than a cup of water and a bit of vegetable oil. I was shooting for a consistancy just a bit thicker than pancake batter. The batter needed to rest for a minute to develop the proper gooey consistancy so I turned my attention to supper. Supper was to be talapia, and with fish I usually like rice which takes twenty minutes to cook. I put a pan of rice on the stove to cook while I continued to struggle with the dent. Back out to the driveway...
I ladled a bit of batter down the side of my car, put a generous teaspoon-full in the middle of the suction cup and splotched it against the dent. A quick pull and the dent was noticably smaller and less pushed in. It was still hard to get a good seal over the letters (next time I'll make the goo a bit thicker) but it worked well enough. After a few minutes there were still a few rumpled bits (which I am still working on) but the side of the car was generally back where it belonged and the dent was getting hard to see. Back to the kitchen...
I had used very little of my batter and I still had the fish to cook. Hmmmm... I grabbed an egg and whipped that into the batter along with a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of dried dill weed, a clove of pressed garlic and a bit of white pepper from the grinder. I put a quarter inch of vegetable oil in a frying pan and heated it quite hot. I poured the batter onto a large plate and layed the tilapia fillets in the batter on each side before dropping them into the hot oil. I poured about a tablespoon of the batter on top of each fillet and, while they cooked, I dashed out to the driveway with wet paper towels to de-goo my car.
I cooked the fish about three minutes a side over high heat to keep the pan hot. That time is approximate, I cooked each side to a medium-brown color. The extra dollop of batter crisped up nicely, giving the fish a hard, definite crunch. I sprinkled the fish with a bit more salt and the juice of half a lemon just before I took it out of the pan and served it with the rice and some tomatoes and eggplant left over from lunch at a favorite local Lebonese restaurant.
I am still working on the dent. The photos above are after photos so it's not quite perfect yet. The dent is much less visible than the pictures suggest -- I chose the angle and lighting to show off the dent and I jazzed the contast a bit to make it easiert to see. I'm currently looking for just the right slim, rigid slightly curved object to poke in from the door opening to pop out those last few bits. I'll keep you posted.
One last word of advice. If you decide to use this technique to fix your car (and, possibly, your supper) be sure to wear old clothes. All the splitching and splotching with a batter-covered suction cup tends to leave one rather splattered. But the fish is really tasty.