Banks Wannamaker urged us to be in touch with her friend Novella Prince, with these words of endorsement: "(She) creates the most delicious Southern recipes you will ever put in your mouth ... and I mean A-Z ... appetizers all the way to the desserts!"
Well, you may have noticed, we're kind of partial to Southern, so it was an easy sell. Here's more about Novella in her own words:
Name: Novella M. Prince
Residence: Mount Pleasant
Family: Husband, Jim; sons Philip, 24, Walker, 20
Q. You grew up in Florence, and your dad was your biggest influence in developing your love of cooking. How did that unfold?
A. My dad taught me that cooking was all about family and friends, and his cooking was as big as his personality. I loved being in the kitchen watching him create dishes from scratch without recipes. The kitchen was full of energy and great conversation. Some of my favorite dishes were his fried chicken and mashed potatoes, fried fish, shrimp creole and pot roast. He made it fun and interesting. As we all have gotten older, his cooking is now more health conscious (honey brown sugar pecan-encrusted salmon and homemade tabbouleh, for example).
Q. Tell us the funny story about your sister and cooking.
A. One of my father's rules was that all his children had to learn to cook, each taking turns preparing a dish or meal. His rule was that you ate whatever the other cooked so that you would be sure to make your best effort to make the dish taste great. Early on, I vividly remember my sister, Renee, preparing rice but forgetting to boil it. Needless to say, after crunching our way through that helping of rice, none of us ever messed up a rice dish again! A great incentive to become a good cook.
Q. You say that Thanksgiving was the grandest meal of the year, a true feast among family and friends. Describe some of the foods on the table.
A. Our Thanksgivings were not typical. The table seemed endless with fried quail, duck, turkey, ham, venison, pheasant, dove ... and a lot of friends.
Q. You love to cook, and now your son living in New York City also likes to cook. How and what did you pass along to him?
A. I passed on to my son, Philip, that same creative passion for food and cooking that is a signature of most good cooks. He still calls weekly and asks me if one flavor would complement or mesh well with another. It makes for another great conversation in the kitchen.
Q. Cooking is a lifelong learning process. What is a new dish you recently tried (or fairly recently) for the first time and how did it turn out?
A. I decided to attempt to make truly authentic homemade bread pudding for the first time, knowing it would be difficult. Since I was making it for my father's birthday, I really wanted it to be great (and to impress him). New Orleans style bread pudding with whiskey sauce. It turned out fantastic. Truly a labor of love.
Q. Let's say you have friends coming over for a casual dinner tonight, a summer evening in mid-August. What would be on your ideal menu?
A. Smoked salmon with cream cheese spread on crostini for appetizer. For dinner, lemon Greek chicken, Connoisseur Casserole (recipe below), wild rice and watermelon salad. Followed up with blueberry cobbler and vanilla ice cream.
Q. You're an interior designer whose forte is kitchens. If you had one design tip for those considering a kitchen remodel, what would it be?
A. In pantry design, most designers design the pantry with deep shelves. The pantry in my opinion is one of the most important aspects of a kitchen and needs to be the most efficient and functional space in the kitchen. Shallower shelves allow canned goods, boxes, spices, etc. to be easily seen and accessed. There are several different ways to design with shallower shelves and still have the same amount of storage space.
Q. A treat, savory or sweet, that is almost always in my refrigerator or pantry:
A. Cream cheese and sweet pepper jelly or summer sausage, gouda cheese and champagne mustard.
A favorite recipe or two:
(from "Tea Time at the Masters")
"I have been cooking this since a got married 30 years ago and it never grows old."
1 (12-ounce) can white shoe peg corn, drained
1 (16-ounce) can French-cut string beans, drained
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 (103/4-ounce) can cream of celery coup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
For the topping:
1 cup Ritz cracker crumbs
1/2 stick butter, melted
1/2 cup slivered almonds
Mix all ingredients except for the topping. Place in 11/2-quart casserole. Sprinkle topping over casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
1/2 cup chopped Vidalia onions
1/2 pound hardwood smoked bacon, cubed
2 (10-ounce) packages frozen shoe peg corn
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 (103/4-ounce) can cream of celery soup
3 soup cans of half & half
Salt and pepper to taste
2 pounds peeled raw shrimp
3 slightly cooked potatoes, diced
2 teaspoons Creole seasoning
1 leek (green and white parts), sliced
1/4 cup diced shallots (or to taste) (optional)
Sherry for serving
Saute onions with bacon until bacon is cooked and onions are soft and translucent. Add corn and 1 cup heavy whipping cream. Cook until corn is softened. Remove from heat and with a fork, mash and mix to creamed-corn consistency. Combine soup, half & half, salt and pepper in a stock pot. Add cooked potatoes, leeks and shallots, then after 20 minutes, add shrimp, Creole seasoning and cream corn. DO NOT BOIL. Add a little sherry before serving.
"Recipe from Blue Meyers (my father):"
1/2 pound bacon
3 Vidalia onions
3 cups of water
6 chicken thighs
1/2 pound of your favorite smoked sausage
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup brown rice
3-quart pot with lid
Cook the bacon in the pot over low heat; when done, remove bacon and reserve.
Slice onions and caramelize in pot with bacon grease.
Add water, chicken, sausage, salt, pepper and bacon. Cook, covered, over low heat until chicken is done (juices run clear or internal temperature of 175-180 degrees).
Remove chicken bones and skin from pot.
Add rice and cook, covered, 25 minutes over low heat.
Optional: If you like chicken livers, add one container when you add the rice. It doesn't take long for chicken livers to cook.
"Here is one other fantastic recipe from my father:"
For the shrimp:
1 pound of small shrimp (35/50 count), peeled and deveined
1 can of beer
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
For the salad:
4 oranges, peeled and sectioned
1 large red bell pepper, sliced
1/2 red onion, sliced
1/2 cup of fresh cilantro
1/4 cup of fresh mint
Poach shrimp in beer and seasonings until just pink.
Mix salad and shrimp together, and add some Citrus Vinaigrette (recipe follows); gently toss to combine; cover and chill 24 hours.
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
Whisk together all ingredients except the oil to thoroughly combine. Slowly whisk in the olive oil.
2 cups chopped romaine lettuce
2 medium avocados, cubed
1/2 pound strawberries, sliced
1 package dried cranberries
1/2 pound pecans
Place lettuce on a platter. Spoon shrimp mixture over lettuce; add the remaining ingredients.