The secrets of vegetables (+ Celeriac Butternut Gratin)

Too often when I read cookbook reviews, I feel like the reviewer is talking in theory and not with the kind of insight that comes from actually cooking from the book. Recipes that impress on paper but fall flat in the kitchen are too numerous to count. As a book editor myself, let’s just say it’s too often “been there, done that, not again!”

This new series will not only present the numerous offerings from local chefs, it will test their recipes where it counts: in a normal kitchen, using run-of-the-mill appliances and supermarket-bought ingredients whenever possible. Whether or not these recipes fail or succeed because of my lack of talent or recipe errors, well, the proof is in the pudding, as they say.

In the French side of this blog, you will find a full-length review of the cookbook from which recipes are excerpted. Since I will be critiquing Quebec cookbooks published in French, I figured it was useless to translate the actual review. If you can read French and would be interested in purchasing the book, then a visit to the French side will help make up your mind.

Recipe adapted from “Les secrets des légumes” de Jérôme Ferrer
Les Éditions La Presse
In French only

It is still in print and can be purchased here.

Jérôme Ferrer is a celebrated Montreal chef, co-owner of top restaurants like Europea, Beaver Hall, Andiamo and Birks Café. Europea is one of only 4 Relais&Châteaux establishments in all of Canada. He has also published his sauce and dessert “Secrets”.


Note: This recipe is tasty and easy to make, especially if you and your mandolin slicer are fast buddies. The bigger your vegetables, the bigger your gratin and the longer the cooking time which can take from 30 to 45 minutes at least. At first bite, my son exclaimed: “It’s like cream of squash soup!” and he’s right. I will make this recipe again, maybe using muffin molds for an even more sophisticated result. (Maybe when having guests for supper, which is the only reason I ever take out my mandolin. It’s not finger-friendly enough for this klutz.)

The book indicated 30 minutes of cooking, which is when I took this pix. My vegetables were large and so almost raw. The final gratin (after 50 minutes) was much softer than you see in this photograph.


  • 1. Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F).
  • 2. In a pan, bring milk and cream to a boil. Add nutmeg and garlic, remove from oven and let infuse. (I chose to slice the vegetables at this point to let seasonings infuse longer. I recommend you use a mandolin, since celeriac and Butternut squash are very hard vegetables and hard to thin slice.)
  • 3. In a gratin dish, layer celeriac and Butternut squash in successive layers. Season in between layers.
  • 4. Pour cream mix on top and bake a good 45 minutes or more.