Who Cut The Cheese?
We drove along a narrow road, seventeen miles outside of Santa Fe. Flanked by rock formations, it was dark, save for the light pollution spilling out from casinos in the distance. Rancho Encantado felt isolated in the same way that cult compounds do – because obviously I’ve visited lots of those. Still, it seemed like the kind of place where people flocked in a quest to find themselves. Personally, I could care less about the state of my chakras. I was there for the cheese.
The prospect of making cheese conjured conflicting images of dairymaids in period costumes and giant rounds of the gooey stuff, slowly collecting mold on a wooden shelf somewhere in rural France. As with all things French and culinary, I was anticipating a process with forty different steps that would produce a one inch cube of Camembert.
I wasn’t expecting to be taught by Chef Andrew Cooper, a guy so low-key he could have mellowed out Gordon Ramsey. We gathered in a room that was 70% stainless steel and all professionalism. We may have been a bunch of rookies there thanks to an impulse purchase of tickets for a Restaurant Week cooking class, but Chef Cooper never treated us as such.
We were traveling to Italy, without the jetlag or the price tag. Chef Cooper promised to show us how to make ricotta and mozzarella. In less than an hour.
The whole process took all of fifteen minutes. Although I’d previously thought myself as likely to encounter ‘curds and whey’ as I was to become BFFs with Little Miss Muffet, I was now convinced that I too could make ricotta.
Next up was the mozzarella. That one was more complicated and involved pre-purchased cheese curds, a salt-water mixture, and a double boiler. Mozzarella has to be stretched out. Then you need to remove any air bubbles. It’s a surprisingly satisfying process that is like playing with a giant ball of silly putty. Even I couldn’t screw it up.
- Rancho Encantado is a Four Seasons Resort, located at 198 State Road 592, Santa Fe.
- To sample Chef Cooper’s food on a budget, check out the hotel’s bar menu.