Spice Up Your Favorite Comfort Foods


By Allison Joy

All this dismal Syracuse weather means it’s time to snuggle up and settle in with some hot and spicy comfort food. This week, we’re throwing it back to some updated kid favorites, while adding a touch of collegiate class. Cook up some cayenne macaroni and cheese and wash it down with a mug of bourbon hot chocolate with a spicy kick and you’ll warm up in no time.

Cayenne Mac and Cheese

1 3/4 cups uncooked pasta (elbow macaroni is best, but you can substitute ziti or penne)

5 tbsp butter, divided into pats

3 tbsp all-purpose flour

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

½ a cup shredded pepper jack cheese

1 ¼ cup milk

¼ cup half and half

2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs

½ tsp cayenne

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook the pasta. While cooking, melt 4 tbsp butter over medium heat with flour, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Slowly add the milk and half and half, and let boil. Stir for several minutes until thick, and add cheeses until melted and incorporated.

2. Pour the pasta – cooked al dente – into a greased baking dish. Then, pour the cheese mixture over the top, and mix together.

3. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter, combine with breadcrumbs, and sprinkle over the top.

4. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until breadcrumbs are golden brown. Finish with another sprinkle of salt and pepper and serve (serves 6).

Spicy Bourbon Hot Chocolate

1 cup milk

3 tbsp hot chocolate mix

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 pinch of cayenne

1 tsp superfine sugar (optional)

6 tbsp bourbon, brandy or dark rum

1. Pour milk into a glass measuring cup and microwave for about two minutes or until desired heat is reached

2. Combine milk with hot chocolate mix, cinnamon, cayenne, and sugar until all are incorporated.

3. Add the bourbon and stir.