Food & Wine Best New Chef Tavel Bristol-Joseph says, "Everyone thinks the dessert is super complicated but it’s one of the easiest things to make. You could get everything you need from a gas station."

By Tavel Bristol-Joseph, as told to Khushbu Shah
November 10, 2020
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Credit: Illustration by Caitlin-Marie Miner Ong / Photo by Cedric Angeles

The holidays will be different this year. Our series, "The One Dish," collects stories about what we're doing for Thanksgiving that will make us feel right at home.

Ambrosia is one of those things I’ve always loved. The first time I tried it, I was hooked. I love condensed milk, though—you can add it to anything and I will eat it. What I love about ambrosia, in particular, and why I tend to make it at Thanksgiving is that it’s ridiculously simple to make and you make a huge batch of it and it lasts for the week. It’s my go-to for a late night post-Thanksgiving snack. 

I was introduced to ambrosia at Thanksgiving dinner at my ex-girlfriend’s family’s house years ago. Her family is Jamaican, and they make a version where everything is from a can, but I prefer to use fresher ingredients. I think it tastes better that way. My version uses lots of condensed milk, sour cream or creme fraiche, a good spicy rum, cinnamon, a little bit of nutmeg, some vanilla, a pinch of salt, and then lots of fresh fruit. You can use whatever you have on hand, but the one fruit I always have to have in there is banana. That combination of banana, rum, and cream is just unlike anything else.

It’s honestly pretty tasty with canned fruit cocktail, too. Just drain the fruit and toss it in. The ingredients are pretty flexible, but the rum you use is key. I like to use a dark rum from Puerto Rico, or any very intense dark Caribbean rum. I also like to serve with a side of good cookies like ginger snaps or ones made with banana and chocolate. 

I like to serve the ambrosia in individual cocktail cups with the cookies on the side and a dusting of cinnamon. Everyone thinks the dessert is super complicated but it’s one of the easiest things to make. You could get everything you need from a gas station, honestly. It’s the best thing when you need to make a bomb-ass dessert really quick. Ambrosia is one of my favorite parts about Thanksgiving.