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By Debbie Anderson January 19, 2022 May 13th, 2022 No Comments

Comfort Food

By Meda Kessler

For a busy chef, a family dinner is a special occasion that calls for a dish evoking memories of her native Florida

As a small business owner and chef, Beth Newman admits she rarely has time to cook at home. Newman runs Mason & Dixie and Harvest Hall’s Chick & Biscuit, both in Grapevine. On her rare days off, she’ll grab dinner at one of her favorite local spots — Brussels sprouts are a must-order. She is happy to pull out the pots and pans when Katie, her daughter, returns home for a visit. A native of Florida, Newman loves Cuban food. One dish she makes as a family meal is buttery saffron rice topped with chicken, with sides of black beans and sweet plantains.
“It’s pure comfort food,” says Newman. — Meda Kessler

Chicken and Yellow Rice

Serves 6

  • 1 whole chicken (around 3 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground   black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 medium yellow onion, halved

Remove gizzards and liver from chicken. Place chicken in a large Dutch oven or pot, breast side up. Add enough cool water to just cover the chicken; turn heat to medium-high. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper; add bay leaves and onion. Bring to a low boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for about 1 hour. Turn off heat, remove lid and let chicken rest in the broth for 30 minutes. Remove to a shallow bowl. Discard onion and bay leaves. Cover broth and keep warm. 

Using your fingers, pull meat off carcass into sizable chunks, discarding bones, skin and fat.  


  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups long-grain white rice 
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon saffron threads, steeped in ¼ cup boiling water
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • Salt to taste
  • Fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped 

Over medium-high heat, warm olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pot. Add diced onion and saute for 8 minutes. Add garlic and saute for an additional 5 minutes. Add rice, onion powder, garlic powder, turmeric, oregano, cumin and paprika. Saute for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. 

Add saffron (including water) and 4 cups of reserved warm chicken broth. Stir, cover and cook for 20 minutes or until all liquid has been absorbed. 

Remove lid and fluff rice with a fork. Add butter and blend well. Fold in chunks of chicken. Salt to taste and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve with black beans, sweet plantains and warm buttered Cuban bread. (Newman shops at Cuban Dulceria International Bakery in Carrollton. You also can substitute French or Italian-style bread.)

Cuban Black Beans

Serves 6 to 8

  • 1 pound dried black beans 
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 smoked ham hock
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 teaspoons cumin powder
  • 8 cups water or enough to cover
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Rinse black beans in cold water; discard stones and blemished beans.

Select “saute” and allow pot to fully heat. Add olive oil, ham hock and onions; saute for 5 minutes.

Add garlic, tomato paste and cumin; saute for 1 minute. Add water and black beans. Cook at high pressure for 25 minutes, wait 10 minutes and then release pressure.

Remove ¾ cup of black beans and smash them well with a fork. Return smashed beans back into the pot, add salt, stir and serve.

Sweet Plantains

Serves 6

  • 3 very ripe plantains
  • 5 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup 

Peel and cut plantains into ½-inch slices.

Add plantains, brown sugar and salt to a large bowl and gently toss to coat.

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add plantain mixture and evenly pour maple syrup and vanilla extract over the top.

Cook until browned and crisp on the bottoms, about 3 to 5 minutes. Watch closely to prevent burning.

Once browned, flip the plantains and cook an additional 2 to 4 minutes. 

Serve immediately or hold them in a 170-degree oven until ready to plate.