What Dancers Eat

The 7 Dancer Recipes We're Making for Thanksgiving This Year

Dancers often make the best chefs. Photo by Quinn Wharton

Tired of the typical turkey and stuffing? For Thanksgiving this year, try something different with these personal recipes that dancers have shared with Dance Magazine. The ingredients are packed with dancer-friendly nutrients to help you recover from rehearsals and fuel up for the holiday performances ahead.

If anyone raises an eyebrow at your unconventional choices, just remind them that dancers are allowed to take some artistic license!


To Start: Veggie Borscht, from Hubbard Street's Kevin J. Shannon

Black (left) and Shannon (right) cook show off their homemade borscht. Photo by Greg Birman.

For Hubbard Street Dance Chicago's Kevin J. Shannon and his husband, fellow company dancer Craig D. Black Jr., cooking is a way to relax together after a busy day in the studio—often accompanied by a bottle of wine they've picked up somewhere on tour.

Shannon loves using vegetables they've grown in their backyard garden to cook up this vitamin-packed and vegetarian-friendly borscht.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsps. vegetable oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion (diced)
  • 1 leek, top and bottom removed (diced)
  • 4 medium beets (peeled and thinly sliced)
  • 3–4 carrots (peeled and chopped)
  • 3–4 parsnips (peeled and chopped)
  • 2 tbsps. white vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • 48 oz. beef, chicken or vegetable broth (if you're keeping it vegetarian)
  • 1 small/medium head of cabbage (halved and chopped)
  • sour cream or yogurt
  • pinch of dill and splash of lemon juice (optional)

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in medium-sized pot over medium heat. Add onion and leek. Cook for 5 minutes or until soft.
  2. Add beets, carrots and parsnips. Cook another 5 minutes. Add vinegar. Sprinkle salt and pepper.
  3. Cook until beets are soft, about 10 minutes. Add broth. Lower heat to medium-low and cook for 15–20 minutes, then add cabbage.
  4. Cook another 20 minutes.
  5. Garnish each serving with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt. Add optional dill or lemon juice to taste. Serves 6–8.

For Protein: Jamaican Curry Chicken from ABT's Erica Lall

If you're like us and prefer chicken over turkey—particularly if it's got lots of flavor—try American Ballet Theatre corps member Erica Lall's family recipe for Jamaican Curry Chicken.


Ingredients:

  • 1–2 small potatoes, cubed
  • 2–3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 4–6 chicken thighs, skinless and boneless
  • Lawry's seasoning salt
  • 1 tsp. Jamaican curry powder
  • 1 tsp. jerk seasoning
  • 2 tsp. ketchup
  • dried thyme
  • coconut milk (about 1/4 can for 4 thighs)

Directions:

  1. Rinse chicken and place in glass baking dish.
  2. Sprinkle seasoning salt, curry powder (about a full tsp. for four thighs or enough to color all sides of meat a bright yellow).
  3. Add 1 heaping tsp. of jerk seasoning, or a little more for more fire.
  4. Add ketchup.
  5. Mix to evenly coat all surfaces.
  6. Mix in onion, thyme, coconut milk and potatoes.
  7. Cover with foil and marinate in fridge for one hour.
  8. Bake at 375˚F for one hour.
  9. Serve over steamed Basmati rice.

As a Side: Prosciutto Pasta from The Royal's Beatriz Stix-Brunell

Whole wheat pasta can be a great source of healthy carbs. Courtesy Getty Images

Full disclosure: This pasta recipe from The Royal Ballet first soloist Beatriz Stix-Brunell is a favorite among the Dance Magazine editors. It's super tasty, easy to make, and is filled with healthy carbs to get you ready for a marathon season of Nutcracker performances.

Stix-Brunell likes to eat it early in the day if she's got a performance—typically around 2 pm so her stomach isn't too full to dance. But a small serving can also make a great side dish that's sure to please even the pickiest of your relatives. If you want to amp up the nutrients, toss in extra veggies like mushrooms, onions or even sun-dried tomatoes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. whole-wheat penne
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 6 slices prosciutto, chopped into small ribbons
  • 1/2 cup Pecorino cheese
  • 3 bunches arugula, chopped into large pieces
  • 1 tbsp. black pepper, freshly ground

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
  2. Add pasta and cook until al dente (about 8 minutes).
  3. While the pasta is cooking, heat a small, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat; add oil and prosciutto and cook until crispy, then remove pan from heat.
  4. Drain pasta, but keep a little pasta water on the side.
  5. Transfer penne to a large serving bowl, then add Pecorino and toss, gradually adding leftover water to loosen up the pasta as needed.
  6. Add prosciutto, fresh arugula and black pepper. Toss well to combine.

To Sip: Nutcracker-Themed Drinks from Boston Ballet & The Joffrey Ballet

San Francisco Ballet performs the Spanish divertissement. Photo by Erik Tomasson.

In Dance Magazine's December 1990 issue, a number of dancers from Boston Ballet and The Joffrey Ballet sent us a whole list of Nutcracker-themed treats created by and for dancers. We love these simple drink options plucked straight out of the Land of the Sweets.

Russian Tea: Brew strong tea. Place 1 tsp. whole black cherry preserves or red plum preserves in a glass, and then fill glass with the tea.

Frothy Spanish Cocoa: Whip cocoa powder and hot low-fat milk in a blender. Garnish with a zest of orange, cinnamon or a toasted marshmallow.

Fragrant Arabian Coffee: Brew strong coffee. Crush four cardamom seeds in a cup and add zest of lemon before pouring coffee into it.

For Dessert: Pumpkin Cake from Rockette Sarah Staker

Sarah Staker (center), with fellow baker Rockettes Katelyn Gaffney and Christine Sienicki. Photo by Angela Cranford/MSG Photos, courtesy MSG.

Sarah Staker, a Rockette since 2010, loves to bring her great-grandma's pumpkin cake into the dressing room the day after Thanksgiving. "We can use the sugar and carb boost. Plus, it makes me feel like I have a piece of home with me no matter where I'm celebrating the holidays."

Ingredients:

Cake:

  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups flour (not sifted)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups canned pumpkin
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Icing:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 4 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the eggs and sugar; beat well.
  3. Add oil, flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, pumpkin and vanilla; beat well.
  4. Pour in a 13x9-inch pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Test with a toothpick.
  5. For the icing, beat softened cream cheese and butter, add sugar and blend until smooth. Mix in vanilla.
  6. Let cake cool completely before spreading icing. Chill until serving.

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