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Beef in Spiced Sour-Cream Sauce, Germanic

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4 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 lbs. top round steak, sliced 1/2 inch thick and cut into 4 pieces
3 Tbsp. lard
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1 tsp. paprika
6 whole black pepper corns
3 whole allspice
1/2 small bay leaf
1 whole clove
2 cups water
1 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp. Madeira

In a mixing bowl, combine 3 tablespoons of the flour with the salt and pepper. Dip the pieces of beef in the seasoned flour one at a time, then vigorously shake off the excess. In a heavy 10- to 12-inch skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the lard over high heat until a light haze forms above it. Add the beef and brown it on both sides, regulating the heat so the meat browns quickly and evenly without burning. Remove the meat to a platter and add the remaining lard to the skillet. Then drop in the onions and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, for 5-8 minutes, or until the onions are soft and slightly brown. Add the paprika, peppercorns, allspice, bay leaf and clove. Pour in the water and bring it to a boil, meanwhile scraping into it any brown sediment clinging to the buttom and sides of the skillet. Return the meat to the pan, reduce the heat to low, and cover tightly. Simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, basting the meat occationally with its cooking liquid. When the beef can easily be pierced with the tip of a fork, transfer it to a plate and cover with aluminun foil to keep warm. Strain the cooking liquid through a fine sieve into a small bowl, pressing down hard on the onions with the back of a spoon before discarding them. There should be 1 1/2 to 2 cups of liquid in the bowl. If there is less than that amount add canned or fresh beef stock; if more, boil the liquid briskly over high heat until it is reduced to 2 cups. Return the liquid to the skillet, bring to a simmer over high heat, then reduce the heat to low. With a whisk, beat the remaining tablespoon of flour into the sour cream. A few tablespoons at a time, beat the sour cream into the simmering liquid and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is hot and slightly thickened. Do not let it boil. Return the beef to the skillet, baste it well with the sauce, and cook just long enough to heat it through. Stir in the Madeira and taste for seasoning. To serve, arrange the meat on a heated platter. Moisten the slices with a few tablespoons of sauce and serve the rest separately in a sauceboat. Traditionally, Würzfleisch is accompanied by dumplings or boiled or mashed potatoes.

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