Always. I’ve been trying to think of a dish I wouldn’t want to add at least a pinch of cayenne pepper to and honestly, I’ve got nothing. Ice cream? Actually that I have no problem with that, and will most likely add some next time I pick up some vanilla. Chocolate? I suppose, but then again I wouldn’t mind a little heat with my chocolate. The point here is that cayenne powder can be added to any dish to enhance flavors and provide a little heat and I keep mine right next to the salt and pepper.
Cayenne powder is made from grounded up dried chillies. Now I like things hot, so I’m exaggerating a tiny bit when I say you should add it to everything. I mean you should, but it’s ok if you don’t dig lots of spices and heat. In comparison to other spices it’s one of the hottest and most pungent so a little goes a long way.
Your goal when using this spice is to create a little hum of heat but also to enhance the flavors already present in the dish. I said before I keep cayenne next to the salt. Salt enhances and intensifies flavors which is why it makes sense that seasoning and salt are fundamental to a kitchen. Same with cayenne in my opinion.
The thing about Cayenne is that it gets hotter the longer it cooks so adding a little pinch at the beginning of a dish is going to add a nice background heat that won’t overwhelm the dish. Eric Ripert admits that he added cayenne to the end of every dish he makes because it “adds flavor and balances out dishes.” Adding just a pinch to top off a creamy soup, eggs cooked any way, or a white wine emulsion is going to really make the dish pop.
If the idea of making your food more delicious isn’t enough of a reason to include this spice in all your future culinary adventures, it also has health benefits! Within all peppers is a varying degree of a chemical called capsaicin. This chemical is a pain reducer and is used to treat poor circulation, digestive issues and chronic pain. Also, since laughter is the best medicine, cayenne can be used in a wide variety of practical jokes. It seems obvious, but when cayenne powder touches your tongue it sends signals throughout your body to pump fresh blood. The same is true in the stomach to create more digestive fluids to break down a big meal.
Cayenne powder just adds color and flavor and complexity to your food. Excuse me, I have a big bowl of ice cream to eat now.