Cayenne pepper (Recipe: butternut squash macaroni and cheese)
One fun thing to know about cayenne pepper:
Native to Central and South America, cayenne pepper is also called cow horn pepper, but if you saw a jar of cow horn pepper sitting on your spice rack, you might not reach for it very often! The name cayenne comes from a small town in French Guiana, where the pepper is cultivated. An excellent source of Vitamin A, cayenne packs the same heat wallop as Tabasco® sauce, and makes a great substitute when you want pure heat without the added vinegar.
Cooking or baking?
Cooking, mostly, but also baking.
On the spice rack, in a tightly-sealed tin or glass jar, for up to 1 year. I keep a small supply near my cooking area, and extra pepper in the freezer to prolong its shelf life.
Butternut squash macaroni and cheese
Adapted from marthastewart.com, this mac and cheese pleased young and old and vegetarians at our holiday table. You can substitute any type of squash, and any type of short, stubby pasta. The little pinch of cayenne pepper adds balance to the dish, so don't omit it. Serves 6.
1 small butternut squash (about 1 pound) , peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
1 cup water (or homemade or low-sodium canned chicken stock)
1-1/2 cups skim milk
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of cayenne pepper
3/4 tsp kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
1 lb short pasta (rotini, cellentani, or elbow macaroni)
4 oz extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated (storebought okay)
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
4 Tbsp Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated, divided
2 Tbsp panko
1 tsp olive oil
Olive-oil cooking spray
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Combine squash, water (or stock) and milk in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until squash is tender when pierced with a fork, approximately 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Mash contents of saucepan; stir in nutmeg, cayenne and salt, and season with black pepper. Stir to combine.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add noodles; cook until al dente according to package instructions, about 8 minutes. Drain, and transfer to a large bowl; stir in squash mixture, cheddar, ricotta, and 2 tablespoons of the Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Lightly coat a 9-inch square baking dish (4 inches deep) with cooking spray. Transfer noodle mixture to dish. In a small bowl, combine panko, remaining 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, and oil; sprinkle evenly over noodle mixture.
Cover with foil, and bake 20 minutes. Remove foil, and continue baking until lightly browned and crisp on top, 30-40 minutes more.
Serve immediately, or let cool and refrigerate for up to two days. Leftovers can be frozen.
More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Ethiopian chicken in red pepper sauce
Bob's smoky beef ribs
Slow-roasted tomato mac and cheese
Shrimp, lemon, herb and feta mac and cheese
Salmon tagine with chermoula
Other recipes that use cayenne pepper:
Hot and spicy chocolate chip cookies, from No Recipes
Roasted squash soup with cayenne pepper, from 24 Boxes
Truffles with cayenne pepper, from Sassy Radish
Middle of the road chile con carne, from Jane Spice
Adobo chicken, from This Week for Dinner