Above: Photograph by Douglas Merriam.
WHEN I TEACH NEW MEXICAN CUISINE, I always start with a discussion of the Three Sisters: corn (or maize), beans, and squash. But as I get into describing the actual dishes on a delicious combo plate, I realize that cheese figures prominently—the fourth sister. Lucky for us cheeseheads, we are blessed with a terrific selection of homegrown cheeses from Tucumcari Mountain Cheese, on the state’s east side. Third-generation cheesemeister Chuck Krause hails from Wisconsin and clearly has rich milk running through his veins. Most sought after by chefs is his creamy and heady feta, which makes up a whopping 95 percent of production. But don’t stop there. Try their buttery cheddar and fiery green chile cheddar; Monterey Jack in traditional, basil Jack, and green chile Jack varieties; a nutty Asiago; Gouda and smoked Gouda; pungent Romano; and slightly salty Edam. Any way you melt it, your enchiladas and chiles rellenos will taste more local than ever.
Pick up Tucumcari Mountain Cheese (about $4 for 10 ounces) at La Montañita Co-ops throughout the state, Kaune’s Neighborhood Market, in Santa Fe, and Mountain View Market Co-op, in Las Cruces. Shipping is sometimes available in cooler months.