Greg Bishopp's thoughts turn to food mid-afternoon.
"Three, four o'clock," mused the Sadddleback College dean of fine arts and communication, "I'm thinking about what I'm going to want to eat for dinner. I usually have a pretty good idea what I want to prepare before I hit the market."
A gourmet cook, Bishopp hits the market daily--a schedule that suits his eclectic, adventurous tastes, but one he doesn't recommend for cost-conscious chefs.
"Every day I see something special," he said, noting the contradiction with a broad grin. "Something that's outrageously expensive but fits the meal I'm planning. So inevitably I buy it.
"Last week I was shopping for a stir-fry, and I saw these beautiful yellow bell peppers. They were $5.99 a pound--crazy? Right? But I thought, of course, this is ridiculous, but I'm only buying one, and it's only for this one dish, and it will look wonderful on top of the food."
So, inevitably, he bought it.
Bishopp, 37, developed a sophisticated palate early in life. Born and reared in Santa Cruz, in a home where "both parents were great cooks," Bishopp said it was "understood" that he and his siblings at least tasted every concoction put before them--be it Yorkshire pudding (one of their father's specialties), a spicy curry or slippery shellfish (not generally a big hit with kids). "We were expected to try everything," he said. "If we decided not to eat something, we had to make that decision based on a good reason, not 'It sounds icky.' So we grew up eating oysters and all kinds of weird things that looked funny."
One afternoon last week, Bishopp busied himself in the Capistrano Beach kitchen of one of his staff members, kneading oysters into a cornbread stuffing headed for a 22-pound turkey headed for a smoking mesquite grill. Later that afternoon, Bishopp's entree helped feed some 100 of his co-workers at their annual Christmas bash.
As he puttered in the kitchen, Bishopp sipped a beer, dictated a recipe for his stuffing, and described the joys of cooking--his own and others'. "As an arts administrator and academic dean, my job is basically planning," he said. "My day-to-day deals with 1989, 1990. So I never in one day's time see the results of my work. With cooking, I can think up a meal, shop for it, prepare it, sit down and enjoy it.
"The evening meal is the culmination of the day's efforts," Bishopp said, recalling one recent effort that culminated with butterflied leg of lamb stuffed with a pungent paste of Spanish olives, garlic and fresh rosemary. "For me, dinner is a kind of a symbolic transition away from the day-to-day and into a different mood. But you know what I really love? I love it when other people cook for me . I think almost everyone who cooks feels this way: If you enjoy cooking, and people enjoy eating your cooking, you end up cooking for them a lot."
"I don't want to say I get stuck cooking," Bishopp added, glancing at a group of early guests drawn to the kitchen by a photographer's flash. "It's just that I enjoy nothing more than going to someone else's house, where they've put the effort into planning a meal, done all the work, and made their point with the food."
GREG'S MESQUITE-GRILLED TURKEY WITH SOUTHERN CORNBREAD STUFFING
Barbecue grill, charcoal briquettes, mesquite
24 ounces dried cornbread, baked and crumbled
2 large yellow onions, chopped coarse
4 stalks celery, chopped coarse
2 large cloves of garlic, chopped fine
3 tablespoons fresh chopped thyme
1 tablespoon fresh chopped sage
1/2 pound butter
1 cup dry sherry
3/4 pound small mushrooms, sliced thin
16-24 ounces jarred fresh medium oysters
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 cup water
Heat charcoal and mesquite in barbecue. Place cornbread in large bowl.
Saute onions, celery, garlic, thyme and sage in butter for 20-30 minutes, stirring frequently. Add sherry as mixture cooks. Add mushrooms and saute for another 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and pour over cornbread. Stir until thoroughly mixed.
When cool enough to touch, add oysters, breaking them up and mixing into stuffing with hands.
Stuff both ends of the turkey. Smear bird with mayonnaise. Sprinkle with additional thyme (approximately 1 tablespoon); add fresh ground black pepper to taste. In shallow pan with water, place turkey on grill.
Note: Barbecue will be used as a convection oven, cooking turkey indirectly. Charcoal and mesquite should be piled to one side of grill; turkey should be placed on other side.
Cover grill and let cook for 45 minutes to one hour. Turn bird (keeping it on the same side of the grill). Continue cooking for additional 2 1/2 to 3 hours, turning every half hour.
Serves 20 for dinner.