Sous Chef Series: Elise Kornack At Take Root In Brooklyn

The chef of a charming Brooklyn restaurant teaches us a few tricks

The entire staff at Take Root, a 12-seat restaurant in Brooklyn, numbers two: Elise Kornack in the kitchen, her wife Anna Hieronimus out front.

Kornack does the ordering, the prepping, the cooking, the plating and, often the serving. She then washes all the dishes, locks the door, walks 25 feet down the street to their apartment, sleeps, wakes, drinks a cup of coffee in bed (from Gowanus shop Crop to Cup) and does it all over again.

Plenty of chefs claim to understand the plight of the home cook–the lack of an immersion circulator, the notable absence of a kitchen staff–but Kornack is one of few who really knows. She singlehandedly produces every bite of the 10-course tasting menu served at Take Root, a feat that requires both mindful planning and smart shortcuts.

We were instantly charmed by one of Kornack's tricks: blanching soft herbs (like mint, cilantro and basil) then packing them into ice cube trays, topping them with a little water and freezing them. When she wants to add herbs to a dish, she uses a Microplane-style grater on the frozen herb blocks, which means there's no cutting board or knife to clean.

We're also smitten with her recipe for Beans and Greens (see the recipe), a meal she and Hieronimus eat at least twice a month and a recipe Kornack calls "near and dear to my heart."

Though it isn't representative of the food she serves at Take Root, its underlying philosophy of coaxing big flavor from humble ingredients–in this case, cannellini beans, kale, sage and garlic–is straight from the chef's playbook.

Take Root's Elise Kornack is the sole cook at the 12 seat Brooklyn restaurant she co-owns with her wife, Anna Hieronimus. The restaurant serves a 10-course tasting menu three nights a week.

The mise en place for one of Kornack's favorite homecooked meals, Beans and Greens, includes cannellini beans and kale, as well as onions, garlic and shaved Pecorino Romano.

Take Root's Brooklyn kitchen is–conveniently or inconveniently, depending on how you look at it–about half a block from the apartment that Kornack and Hieronimus share.

Lacking the space (and the staff) to butcher whole animals at the restaurant, Kornack applies a similar use-it-all ethos to vegetables, often serving myriad preparations of a single ingredient. Here, she presents the sunchoke: fried, puréed and pickled.

A genius tip from Kornack: blanch soft herbs, like parsley, mint, basil and chervil, pack into ice cube trays and top with a little water, then freeze. When you want to add herbs to a dish, simply grate the cubes using a Microplane-style grater. No knife or cutting board required.

Take Root has no pastry chef (or dishwasher, or prep cook) so Kornack also makes the desserts, including this grapefruit sponge.

Kornack uses an inexpensive whip cream dispenser (like this one) to aerate both cold and hot liquids. She suggests home cooks try using it to lighten the texture of simple puréed soups or sauces.

The tableware collection at Take Root includes these spoons, which belonged to Kornack's great grandmother.