The 5:30 Challenge: 5 Ingredients, 30 Minutes, Dinner on the Table

This book, published in 2005 by Simon & Schuster,  grew out of a hugely popular column called The 5:30 Challenge that ran for many years in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution when I was the food editor.  Each week, readers were invited to challenge themselves to come up with a fresh, delicious weeknight meal that could be made in 30 minutes or less, with a main dish containing only five ingredients. Jeanne Besser, who produced many of the section’s features, tested and tweaked the best of the lot, and together we supplemented them with some of our own creations. I still keep this book in easy reach for nights when I’m craving something nourishing and homemade, with as little prep and clean-up as I can get away with.


Rustic Chicken Stew with White Beans and Kale

Makes 4-6 servings

To our minds, there is no greater saving grace for the time-starved cook than a supermarket rotisserie chicken. Apparently lots of folks agree; in 2003 some 800 million pre-cooked birds winged their way onto American dining tables. This delicious, fortifying stew uses every morsel of the chicken. Bone it while it’s still warm from the spit and the meat practically falls off the bones. If you use pre-chopped onions and bagged shredded carrots, it goes together in no time. Because rotisserie chickens are generally highly seasoned, there’s no real need to add more spice — especially if you do what we did and use the wings with the skin attached for flavoring. Kale adds color and depth of flavor, as well as a major dose of nutrients. Leftovers freeze well.

1 well-seasoned rotisserie chicken, any flavor (about 4 cups meat)

1 1/2 cups chopped onion

1 cup chopped or shredded carrots

2 15-ounce cans cannellini or Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained

1 6- to 8-ounce bag chopped, cleaned kale

TO MAKE THE MEAL: Sourdough bread

Remove skin and bones from chicken (reserve wings and large bones) and dice or shred meat into bite-size pieces.

Meanwhile, in a large, well-oiled stockpot over medium heat, saute onion, carrots, chicken wings, and a few of the large bones for 5 minutes, or until vegetables soften.

Add 4 cups water, beans, and chicken meat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, add kale, and simmer for 5 minutes, or until tender. Remove from heat. Remove and discard bones.

PER SERVING: 596 calories, 66 grams protein, 66 grams carbohydrates, 21 grams fiber, 8 grams fat, 119 milligrams cholesterol, 152 milligrams sodium.

ADD ON: Garnish with shavings of Parmesan cheese.

MAKE IT PERSONAL: Fresh spinach can stand in for the kale, but add it during the last minute or two of cooking. Besides rotisserie chicken, smoked sausage links such as kielbasa also pair well with white beans and kale.



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