When it comes to cooking for others, I usually opt to serve food in its most rustic form. This way, the natural beauty of ingredients can come through - I like to see stems, skins, and seeds left intact - not to mention, the job is made a lot easier for the cook.
This technique works especially well with fresh, locally sourced vegetables, in particular with winter squash varieties. Though technically a fruit, everyone seems to love when golden hues of pumpkin or squash are brought to the table as a hearty "vegetable" side. In season, squash is superbly vibrant and sweet. Little needs to be done in order to achieve a gorgeous presentation and even more delicious dish. Here, I've roasted the squash with some browned butter and thyme leaves, and topped it with lightly toasted hazlenuts.
The skin of squash can actually be eaten, it's just not that pleasant if its very thick. Young butternut and kabocha (or Japanese) are easy to eat; if you're using another variety with very thick skin, kindly tell your guests they can carve the flesh from the skin and seeds using their knife and fork. After all, working a bit for your food makes it last longer and taste sweeter.
Roasted Brown Butter Squash
1 butternut squash (or other variety of choice), cut into eighths
2 tablespoons butter
5 sprigs thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
Preheat oven to 400ºF.
In a small saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add thyme. Cook, stirring frequently, until butter begins to darken in color and become slightly fragrant, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat.
In a baking dish, arrange squash in an even layer, skin side down.
Pour brown butter and thyme over squash, coating the squash evenly. Season with salt and pepper, transfer to oven and bake until squash is tender, 30-35 minutes.
Sprinkle squash with roasted hazelnuts and serve immediately.