The Ballet Cook Book: George Balanchine's Recipes

George Balanchine, Sir Frederick Ashton, Gerald Arpino, Robert Joffrey, Jacques D’Amboise, John Cranko, Agnes De Mille, Ninette de Valois, Natalia Dudinskaya, Suzanne Farrell, Margot Fonteyn, Carla Fracci, and Rudolf Nureyev are only a fraction of the names that appear in the Table of Contents as contributors to the brilliant piece of history that is “The Ballet Cook Book”.

Tanaquil Le Clercq, the author of this cookbook, was the fourth and final wife of George Balanchine from 1952-1969. Other than the fact that George Balanchine was George Balanchine, this might also explain why he has the most recipes included in this book...26 to be exact:

  • The Do’s and Don’ts of Serving Caviar
  • Cucumber Pickles
  • Blini
  • Mushrooms No. 1
  • Mushrooms No. 2
  • Slow Beet Borschok
  • Speedy Beet Borschok
  • Jellied Borschok
  • Fast Soup No. 1
  • Fast Soup No. 2
  • Eggs Like Mama Used to Make
  • Fish Dinner for Two
  • Sauerkraut and Tomatoes
  • Sauerkraut and Mushrooms
  • Flounder in Sauerkraut
  • Franks in Sauerkraut
  • Bitotshki in Sauerkraut
  • Leg of Lamb in Sauerkraut
  • Barley Kasha
  • Mr. B’s Sweet Kasha
  • Coriander Sauce
  • Horseradish Ice Cream
  • Mountain Ash Vodka
  • Banana Sweet
  • Kulichi
  • Paska

The recipe that caught our eye most immediately was “Horseradish Ice Cream”, but upon reading the ingredients we quickly realized that this isn’t a recipe for “ice cream” as we know it but more of a condiment to be served with meat.

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George Balanchine’s “Horseradish Ice Cream”

“Ladies are advised to remove their mascara before trying the next recipe. Tears are unavoidable. Mr. B fairly bawls while preparing this specialty of his.” - Tanaquil Le Clercq

⅔ C grated fresh horseradish

4 heaping T sour cream

1 T sugar

Pinch of salt

Combine grated horseradish with remaining ingredients stirring well. Pack into a wet bowl and freeze until firm. Unmold and cut into pie-shaped wedges. Serve with boiled beef, corned beef, tongue, pigs’ knuckles, or fish in aspie.

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George Balanchine’s  “Eggs Like Mama Used To Make”

This recipe is presented as one that Mr. B would make and enjoy on Sundays around noon at their home in Weston, CT. After morning chores he’d mutter, “I am going to make eggs like Mama used to.”

george balanchine with his mother

George Balanchine Recipe The Ballet Cook Book

2 T butter

2 slices of Munzenmaier’s pumpernickel bread

4 eggs

Cheddar cheese

Seasoned salt

Ground pepper

Dill weed, or fresh dill, chopped

Melt the butter in the skillet. Tear bread into bite size pieces and fry lightly on both sides. Break in eggs, dot with slices of cheddar cheese. Add seasoned salt, pepper, and dill and cook covered until done. Serves 2. 

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George Balanchine’s “Cucumber Pickles”

“When buying cucumbers to pickle - indeed, my husband insists, when buying cucumbers for any purpose - please remember to buy the small, three or four inches, the ones no self-respecting housewife would be caught dead selecting. As they invariably do select the overgrown cucumbers.” 

Tanaquil goes on to say that Mr. B has devised an easy method when shopping for cucumbers: “I let the ladies shop for me. I just wait behind them and pick up what they have left - all the smallest cucumbers that nobody wants!”

 

Jars: One-gallon jars with tight-fitting lids.

Cucumbers: Enough to fill the jars. They must not be over 4 inches long. There are approximately 18 cucumbers to a one-gallon jar. Wash and trim off a little bit from each end.

Dill: The dill must be fresh and aromatic. As the cucumber absorbs the flavor of the dill, old, rotten dill results in old, rotten-tasting cucumbers. The best dill to use is from the garden, picked when the florets are just starting to go to seed. For a one-gallon jar, three such stalks would be enough, but bought at your grocer four or five stalks will do. Wash the dill thoroughly and break each stalk in three or four pieces.

Formula: Half a cup of kosher (coarse) salt to eight cups (½ gallon) of water.

Method: Bring water and salt to a boil. Layer a gallon jar with cucumbers and dill until you reach the top. Add the boiling salt water. When cool, cap and refrigerate. Forget for four days. 

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George Balanchine’s “Coriander Sauce”

“Mr. B, a champion defender of coriander, is convinced that he can swing everyone to the cause.”

the ballet cook book george balanchine

2 T butter

2 T flour

½ C sour cream 

1 C heavy cream

2 oz. ground walnuts

1 t dried basil

1 t seasoned salt

1 t onion powder

½ t garlic salt

4 t dill weed

1 t dried tarragon

1 t powdered coriander

¼ t cayenne pepper

Slice fowl, and arrange on a serving platter. Set aside, and prepare sauce.

Melt butter in a skillet, add flour, and cook over low heat, stirring for 1 minute. Remove from flame and blend in sour cream and heavy cream. Return to heat and continue stirring until mixture comes to a boil; allow to simmer a few minutes stirring often. Add walnuts, basil, seasoned salt, onion powder, garlic salt, dill, tarragon, coriander, and cayenne. Taste and adjust seasoning. Pour sauce over cold slices of chicken or turkey and serve. YIelds 1 ½ C sauce.

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George Balanchine’s “Banana Sweet”

“There was no such thing at home as candies out in the open, the way they do in America. Our candy was always locked up, and you received only one piece at a time. I used to say to myself: when I grow up, I am going to eat as much sugar and candy as possible.” - George Balanchine

george balanchine the ballet cook book easter table

Bananas

Butter

Sugar

Lemon Juice

White Seedless Grapes

Apricot Jam

Sour Cream

Sugar

Slivered almonds

Peel and slice bananas. Fry in butter, sprinkle with sugar and lemon juice. Add grapes and heat through. Transfer to a serving dish and spread with apricot jam. Top with sour cream sprinkled with sugar and almonds.

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Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for a new chapter every Friday.

 

Le Clercq, Tanaquil. “George Balanchine.” The Ballet Cook Book,

Stein and Day, 1966, pp. 45-69.

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2 comments

  • Loved the history and stories along with the yummie recipes!

    Jodie
  • Thanks so much for this. I love ballet and I love cooking and history so this was just a delight for me to read. I think I will try the coriander sauce. Debbie ❤️❤️❤️❤️

    Debbie Macnicol

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