Sometimes I think the key to hosting any holiday dinner is doing as much of the work as possible leading up to the actual holiday. Believe me when I tell you that I'm not an organized person at all, but I've learned from many years of experience that organization around the holidays is a must. So to minimize any nasty surprises, I like to be ultra-prepared. This includes getting out all my serving dishes and place settings days before. Then, I make an obsessive-compulsive looking grocery list (you definitely don't want to be without a key ingredient on Thanksgiving day). Lastly, and most importantly, I like to prepare as much of the feast as I can leading up to the actual day. I am so thankful for those dishes that stand up well and can be made the day ahead.
This baked butternut squash was one of the dishes that really held up well to being reheated in the oven the next day. It was a beautiful and colorful addition to our holiday table and was one of the dishes that received the most compliments. Everyone loved the fact that the squash was cut into wedges or spears. They raved about how creamy and sweet it was. I thought the squash was a wonderful contrast to everything else on my plate. It really stood out on it's own. I would give this a spot on my table any time of year.
Baked Butternut with Butter & Sugar
Adapted from Apples for Jam by Tessa Kiros
3-1/2 tablespoons butter
2-1/4 pounds unpeeled butternut squash
1/4 to 1/3 cup light brown sugar
4 tablespoons water
2 bay leaves
Preheat the oven to 350F and generously butter the bottom of a large round ovenproof dish with some of the butter. Peel the butternut by first cutting it in half, then scooping out the seeds with a spoon (save the seeds to toast in the oven for a snack). Cut the squash into long slices that are about an inch thick. Using a small sharp knife, carefully cut away the skin, keeping the shape of the squash slices and taking care that you don't cut yourself, as the skin is hard. You should have about 1-1/2 pounds of butternut.
Scatter some of the sugar over the bottom of the dish and then lay the butternut slices flat, in a single layer. Scatter the rest of the sugar over the top, dot with the rest of the butter, and sprinkle with a little salt. Pour 4 tablespoons of water around the side and add the bay leaves. Put into the oven for about 1 hour or until the butternut is soft and golden, even dark in places, and there is some thick golden juice bubbling away at the bottom. Spoon the pan juices over the squash a couple of times during the cooking - if it looks a little too dry, add a dribble more water. Serve warm. If you aren't serving it immediately, then reheat it gently so that the butter melts again.
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