'Mar Y Montaña' Is Catalonia's Take On Surf And Turf

When crafting a bold dish, there's power in juxtaposition — think of beloved favorites like fried sweet and sour chicken or the tangy pineapple topping on al pastor. Invoking a thoughtful combo of flavors excites the taste buds, offering added intrigue in between bites. Usually, it's all in the sauce or topping; creating contrast with different proteins is trickier. But deft technique makes such combinations shine: Take, for example, a delicious surf and turf.

Mixing terrestrial and marine is a common occurrence in the Catalan cookbook. In fact, it's frequently encompassed by the term "mar y montaña" — translated to "mountains and sea." Such dishes mix combinations of poultry, red meat, crustaceans, and fish into flavorful meals. Bound with a sauce, carb, or both, such delicious dishes are a showcase of Catalonia's tasty takes on hearty fare. Plus, with all the combinations of meats and sauces available, the preparation style of mar y montaña is perfectly adaptable to the region's wondrous culinary diversity.

What is mar y montaña?

Although now enjoyed across Catalonia, mar y montaña is believed to have originated in Empordà. In this far Eastern part of Spain, the Pyrenees mountains ride up close to the coast, hence the increased availability of meats from both land and sea. The possibilities for protein medleys are expansive: You might see chicken, turkey, rabbit, sausage, or jamón ibérico combined with seafood including prawns, crayfish, cuttlefish, lobster, or octopus. While one specific combination of meats isn't considered emblematic of mar y montaña, a chicken and shrimp rendition is especially popular.

The dish is prepared in a stew-like manner, with the components cooked down in aromatics, thickener, and some sort of liquid — often, a broth mixed with wine. To optimize the tastes and textures of the proteins, they are often taken out mid-preparation and reintroduced at the end. The resultant dish isn't usually of soupy consistency, but rather a rich, flavored sauce. However, such a texture isn't a consistent characteristic and will vary based on the ingredients utilized.

Mar y montaña fare typically has deeply savory notes, with earthy and nutty flavors. Such a taste is imbued through the addition of crushed almonds, which also act as a thickener along with a touch of chocolate. When these additional ingredients are spooned over the proteins, the dish comes together into a rich, flavorful meal with perfectly juxtaposed components.