During the late 1970's, my husband and I had our own German restaurant for 3 years, and I was the cook. Sauerbraten was featured on Wednesday and Saturday, prepared the 'traditional way'. DH and my brother absolutly love sauerbraten done right.
Here is an example of Alton Brown's departure from 'traditional':
One day about a year ago, Alton addressed the issue of searing meat, and whether or not searing does in fact lock in juices, and if it does, then is the converse also true? does searing meat prior to marinating prohibit the marinade from penetrating? One of his 'test cases' was sauerbraten. You can bet I was all eyes and ears as he prepared the sauerbraten marinade, which by the way was also done in a 'non-traditional' way (more on that in a little while)*, then seared the meat before adding it to the marinade. If I remember correctly, the meat was left to soak up the marinade for 3 days (typical), turning once or twice a day. Then he cooked the roast, I believe he did an oven braise (don't quite remember the detail there). When he cut into the perfectly done sauerbraten, it was clear that the marinade had indeed penetrated just as if the meat had marinated first, then seared.
His non-traditional method of preparing the marinade and the roast is simply a time/work-saver. Instead of boiling the marinde ingredients in all the liquid required, then waiting for it to cool, he used only half the water called for. Once the marinade had boiled for the necessary time, he added ice to quick cool it, and bring the liquid up to the proper amount.
Why does it matter that he quick-cooled the liquid, or that the meat was seared first? Anyone who has made sauerbraten is aware of the steps involved.
Traditional method: Once the marinade is boiled, it has to be cooled down to room temp before the meat is added. So, boil, then set aside and go do something else for an hour or so. Then put the roast into the marinade and refrigerate, and turn once or twice a day for 3 (or even 4) days. Then, remove the roast from the marinade and make sure it is thoroughly dry. If it isnt dry, much unpleasant splattering is produced when the marinade moisture meets the oil in the hot browning vessel. In addition, the moisture inhibits the maillard reaction and formation of fond (did I get that right, oh worthy terminology police? :rolleyes:).
Braise until done on stovetop or in oven, turning once.
Alton Brown's way: (which incidentally, he did not say it must be done like this):
While the marinade is boiling, sear the meat to very brown on all sides. Quick cool the marinade, add the seared meat, marinate the roast for 3 to 4 days, turning once or twice a day. Remove seared meat from the marinade, put it into the cooking vessel, strain marinade and add it to the pot, to half-way up the roast. Oven or stove-top braise until done, turning once about half-way through the cooking time.
Thinking to myself: I've watched the show, but I really will not believe it's that easy until I try it myself, I set about trying it. Now, for the the big test...will this pass muster with my family? They loved it, and could not tell that it wasn't done the 'traditional way'. I knew, but I couldn't tell the difference either.
There is no right or wrong with this one, only different and easy. I will probably never again prepare sauerbraten the old way again. Had I known about this when I was slaving over four roasts twice a week, it would have saved me hours of valuable time in the kitchen.
"The pressure's on...let's cook something!"