Meals To Eat For The 12 Days Of Christmas

We all know the song "12 Days of Christmas," which is pretty much the "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" of the holidays. If you are forced to listen to it in its entirety, the ordeal will give you plenty of time to ponder: Just which 12 days are we talking (or singing) about? Doesn't the Christmas season, after all, begin the day after Thanksgiving? (Or possibly in late September if you're shopping.) Outside of Big Retail, though, according to Christian theology, it is generally considered a 12-day period that begins on Christmas Day and ends on Epiphany on January 6. The latter holiday commemorates the day the three wise men arrived after the birth of Christ and merits a few traditional dishes of its own: in Spain and Mexico, it's marked with a cake called Rosca de Reyes, while in France, they bake a galette des rois.

In the U.S., however, the days after Christmas can be somewhat of a letdown after a month or more of holiday festivities. As an antidote to the late December and early January blahs, we propose reviving the "12 Days of Christmas," but not as an excuse to bother people with excessive amounts of gifts. As a better alternative, how about we spend them trying out new recipes instead? If you need some inspiration, here's an entire song's worth of ideas for your post-holiday cooking spree.

12 drumsticks drumming

Who on earth would welcome the gift of a dozen drummers banging away? Even if the merry musicians are the relatively restrained marching band kind rather than hell-raising rock and rollers, all that noise would be bound to result in being, er, drummed out of the neighborhood. 

Chicken drumsticks, on the other hand, have many more benefits. Not only do they have more protein and other nutrients than wings or breasts, but they are also one of the cheaper cuts of meat you're likely to find in the supermarket these days. While many recipes call for chicken thighs, which are seen as a trendy, yet budget-friendly alternative to breasts, we found one recipe typically made with drumsticks: a citrusy Senegalese dish called chicken yassa. This recipe takes a bit of time to prepare as the meat is best if marinated overnight in a mixture of lemon juice, chopped onions, and possibly some diced chile peppers for a little kick. The next day, you'll brown the chicken, caramelize the onions, and maybe add additional vegetables or stir in some seasonings, as this is a very loose, customizable recipe. As the meal simmers, the different flavors will meld together into tangy, spicy goodness.

11 piping hot toddies

If there's anything that could make you even more unpopular than hosting a dozen drummers for the holidays, it could be the arrival of 11 pipers piping. Traditional Scottish music is all well and good in its place, but a high-rise apartment building or suburban split-level is no place to host an impromptu Highland games event. 

What won't come amiss, however, is the offer of a hot toddy to any guests who should drop by. It could even help to pacify any complaining neighbors. While this is not quite the same thing as wassail, another hot, boozy drink more closely associated with the Christmas season, it's a lot simpler to make as there's no complicated business involving baked apples and eggs. Honestly, in the 21st century, who's really going to know the difference?

While we don't have room for 11 different toddy recipes, we'd like to offer some options. You can go traditional with a classic hot toddy made from lemon, honey, and whiskey, or you can concoct a complex craft cocktail like the top toddy, which is made from green tea, single-malt scotch, vodka, and ginger liqueur. Feeling experimental? How about the Vergiliana, a hot gin drink with vermouth, Campari, and a chocolate-orange cordial? We even have a hot toddy for non-drinkers: While the apple cider hot toddy recipe calls for bourbon, this ingredient can easily be omitted to make a warm, spicy, alcohol-free beverage.

10 oysters shucking

While ten lords a leaping would undoubtedly make for some prime TikTok footage, they could also inflict quite a bit of damage on any knickknacks you have around the house, and they'd quite likely scare the pets, as well. What's more, eventually, they will quit bouncing around and get hungry — so then what will you do with them? Our recommendation: Set them to work shucking oysters. That way, you'll be all set to make oyster stew, a traditional Christmas Eve dish for some Irish-American families. 

While standard oyster stew is a fairly simple meal, with a houseful of lords, you may want to fancy it up just a bit. For such an occasion, we present brown oyster stew with benne, a recipe created by southern chef Sean Brock. He's a huge fan of heirloom ingredients, so here, he's thickening his stew with flour made from benne seeds and using those same seeds as a garnish for the top. They not only give this recipe a little artisan cachet but add a nutty flavor that will make this oyster stew unlike any that you've ever tasted before.

9 rabbits stewing

Nine ladies dancing might not be quite as rambunctious as leaping lords, but with an uneven number of ladies, who do you think will be drafted to partner with the ninth lady? If you're not quite ready for your "Dancing With the Stars" moment, sit the would-be dancers down with a cup of tea and some Christmas cookies and escape to the kitchen to get a head start on dinner preparations.

While a dish of rabbit stew may not sound too fancy, rabbit these days is considered to be specialty meat and carries a price tag that reflects its elevated status. Therefore, we suggest that when you serve this, you refer to it as ragoût de lapin instead. The recipe is billed as simple and, true to its name, is not particularly difficult to make, but it's definitely on the fancy side as the rabbit is cooked in a red wine sauce flavored with fresh herbs, capers, and dijon mustard. The ladies, or anyone else you are entertaining over the holidays, will surely be très impressionné.

8 milkshakes shaking

We're not sure where you can find eight maids-a-milking these days. Any former milkmaids made redundant by the industrial revolution would surely be well up in years. What, then, could you possibly serve such superannuated former agricultural workers? Why, milkshakes, of course! No matter how old we may be, who doesn't love a good milkshake?

The simplest kinds, of course, consist of whatever type of ice cream you have in the fridge plus enough milk to make the blender spin. We're all about expanding our milkshake horizons, though, so let's level up with a chocolate peanut butter shake from the NYC-based mini-chain Big Gay Ice Cream. If chocolate and peanut butter aren't your favorite combo, how about an espresso milkshake with a little crunch from coffee grounds or a banana shake flavored with cinnamon and salted caramel sauce? For something both frugal and seasonally-appropriate, you could also repurpose any leftover holiday eggnog by tossing that in the blender with a scoop of vanilla ice cream — though spiking this eggnog milkshake with booze is strictly optional.

7 swan-shaped cream puffs

Seven swimming swans look lovely, but we're not entirely sure they're edible. Well, in theory, they are, and you'd think swans would taste much like chicken or at least like a roast goose. However, this meat has been out of vogue since the days of the Tudors, when the birds were reserved for royalty alone. So since they are not yet available in supermarkets, we have a better idea: Let's bake up a batch of swan-shaped cream puffs instead!

Admittedly, these cream puff swans aren't the easiest baking project to tackle, as the recipe calls for 16 different steps. Most of these have to do with making the dough, but it's not actually all that difficult as long as you follow the directions. As far as creating the swan shapes, this is fairly easy, as all you'll need to do is to pipe the dough into teardrop-shaped bodies and long squiggly bits that will serve as both head and neck. When you cut open the baked cream puffs to fill them with sweetened whipped cream, the cut-off bits can be used to make the wings, while the necks are inserted into the filling to complete these pretty pastry swans.

6 eggs a-laying (on a delicious bed of spicy hash)

While a roast goose is an appropriately Dickensian Christmas dish, farm-raised geese are rare and pricey. At over $250 per bird when purchased from a specialty meat market such as D'Artagnan, we're not going to be roasting six for the holidays or at any other time for that matter. Instead, you'll find us cracking half a dozen eggs in a pan full of chorizo hash.

chorizo hash is made with the Mexican-style loose chorizo rather than the dry Spanish sausage. The meat is cooked with onions, peppers, and potatoes and flavored with cilantro, garlic, and lime. The eggs are then cracked on top and cooked in a covered pan until the egg whites are set, but the yolks are still nicely runny. While this recipe calls for just two to four eggs, if you double it and use a large pan, six should fit quite well. Bring on the mimosas because brunch is served!

5 golden milks

Gold rings are certainly a nice present, but even the cheapest ones from Tiffany & Co. come in at over $500. Instead of gold rings, why not give your body the gift of a nutritious turmeric drink? Haldi doodh, also known as golden milk, is a beverage from India that people often drink before bedtime since it can help ensure peaceful, restful sleep. The turmeric that gives it its golden hue has also been credited with treating a wide range of ills ranging from circulatory problems and digestive upsets to poor memory.

To make this recipe, heat up a pan of hot milk flavored with turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon, stirring in some coconut oil to give it an added health boost. Once the milk is warmed up, sweeten the drink with honey, then top it with a pinch of black pepper. Why pepper? As it turns out, this spice enhances the absorption of the antioxidant curcumin that gives turmeric its superfood powers. Once you drink this golden milk, you'll be well-prepared to settle down for a long winter's nap, even on a not-so-silent night.

4 roasting birds

While the song of a single bird can sound peaceful, four calling birds are too much of a good thing. However, you can never have too many roasting bird recipes in your repertoire, so we'll present you with four of these instead.

Roast chicken may sound like a so-so staple, but not if you dress it up with an Indonesian-inspired blend of coconut milk, chiles, fish sauce, lemongrass, and lime juice. If you're roasting yet another turkey for your holiday feast, you can switch things up from the typical Thanksgiving-style bird by swapping the sage and thyme for a Portuguese-style marinade of beer and paprika. If you want to go with a different kind of meat altogether, you could always opt for a fruit-stuffed, honey, lemon-glazed roast duck or even try your hand at roast quail. The quail in this recipe is seasoned with rosemary and garlic and served atop a nest of toasted farro, roasted butternut squash, and sauteed cabbage.

3 French pastries

We're entering the home stretch here with the third verse, and we'll admit we've always wondered: What's so special about a French hen, anyway? All chickens, regardless of their provenance, fry up just the same. French pastries, on the other hand –- oh là là! Here are three recipes sure to look très magnifique on your festive board.

Hazelnut financiers are a type of extra-fancy bar cookie that would go perfectly with a cup of café au lait. Cannelés de Bordeaux is a little more elaborate, as these rum-and-vanilla-flavored pastries must be made in special molds. Still, the result is not only délicieux but awfully cute, as these personal-sized pastries are like super-elegant baby bundt cakes. For the ultimate treat in holiday desserts, however, you couldn't do better than a Christmas tree-shaped croquembouche, a pyramid of mini green-frosted cream puffs wrapped in spun sugar and topped with a sugar-cookie star.

2 chocolate turtles

What even is a turtledove anyway? While it may sound like some weird hybrid of the two creatures a medieval mad scientist dreamed up, Britannica informs us that the turtledove is actually a rather ordinary-looking bird commonly found in Europe and North Africa. Restrictions on live animal imports aside, as an alternate suggestion to two turtledoves, we propose the more domesticated — and far more sweet and delicious — candy known as chocolate turtles.

The pecans form the "turtle's" head and feet, while caramel and chocolate are the ingredients used to make the shell. Of course, these treats are perfect for gifting (simply box and wrap them up in a neat little bow), and we suggest you offer more than just two of the confections. But don't worry: The recipe makes 20 pieces, giving you enough to share while still allowing you to sneak a few for yourself.

And a pickled pear in a BLP

Finally, we're at the end, or rather, the beginning, of the interminable Christmas carol with a verse that shows that this song pretty much jumped the shark right at the beginning. Why would anyone possibly want a partridge in a pear tree, and how would you even get the bird to stay there? Let's then leave the partridges in their non-arboreal nests and proceed with the pear motif. Not in a tree, but a sandwich: we present for your consideration the bacon, lettuce, and pear, aka the BLP.

The BLP, as you may have guessed, is kind of like a BLT; however, the tomatoes are replaced with spiced pickled pears (directions for the pickling process are included in the recipe). This sandwich makes for a perfect holiday nosh when you're tired of cookies and eggnog, or you could always add some leftover turkey and turn it into a BLPT club.