Irish Lamb Stew
* 2 pounds boneless leg of lamb, trimmed of fat and cut into 1-inch pieces
* 1 3/4 pounds white potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
* 3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
* 3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
* 3 large leeks, white part only, halved, washed and thinly sliced
* 1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
* 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
* 1/4 cup packed parsley leaves, chopped
Combine lamb, potatoes, carrots, celery, leeks, broth, thyme, salt and pepper in a 6-quart slow cooker; stir to combine. Put the lid on and cook on low until the lamb is fork-tender, about 8 hours. Stir in parsley before serving.
Programmable Slow Cooker:When you spend every day cooking at work it's a relief to get home to a fully cooked, ready-to-serve meal once in a while. For many of us, the slow cooker has long been a secret weapon in the effort to have a relaxing evening. And while most slow cookers have basically the same cooking mechanism—a ceramic liner that sits in a heating unit—we discovered during testing that certain optional bells and whistles really are worth the extra money. A perfectly adequate five- or six-quart slow cooker, which is big enough to cook meals for a family of four with leftovers, can be purchased for as little as $30. The primary drawback with the basic cooker is that you need to manually time your cooking and then be there to turn it off. We found that the programmable six-quart Smart-Pot Slow Cooker from Crock Pot (above, $70) offers several features that justify the extra cost. A digital touchpad allows the user to control the heat settings and time the cooking in increments of 30 minutes up to 20 hours (it's not unheard of, for instance, for a brisket to cook for more than 12 hours). But perhaps our favorite feature is the automatic shift-to-warm setting, which allows your meal to cook for its predetermined time and then switch to a setting that keeps the food at a safe temperature until you're ready to eat. Put out the plates, pour a glass of wine and you're ready for dinner. Now if they only had one that cleaned itself...J.R.