To honor this most culinary holiday, I found a dessert recipe that, in true MacGyver fashion, can be made with equipment found in a hotel room. Here, a hair dryer provides heat—but couldn't save this disasterpiece.
This recipe is for an ultra-simple chocolate-cranberry mousse, chosen for its simplicity (only a few easily-obtainable ingredients and no advanced skills needed). It's also appropriate for Thanksgiving, being a sticky-sweet dessert with cranberries, and doesn't require any baking (only chilling, and this time of year, that means "put it outside"). It does, however, require some mild heat to create both the chocolate base and the mousse itself—and instead of using something boring like a microwave or saucepan, you can actually use an ordinary hair dryer.
• Handheld hair dryer
• Mixing bowls (anything metal works—an ice bucket, aluminum tin the pie crust came in, whatever)
• Whisk (or fork)
• Measuring cup
• Pre-made pie crust
• 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
• 1 cup vanilla-flavored white chocolate chips
• 1.75 cups heavy whipping cream, plus 2 tbsp
• Orange zest
• Whole-berry cranberry sauce
Notes: Recipe adapted from this one—the original is a traditional recipe, using traditional tools, but "low heat" is just so ambiguous that I started looking around for an unexpected source of heat. I found it in a hair dryer. Also, I cheated and used a whisk to whip the cream, but a fork will do the job—it'll take awhile and it's a bit of a forearm workout, but it'll work.
Step 1: Get your pie crust ready. In the interest of forming a recipe that could be made in a hotel room, I first tried one of those cookie crusts that doesn't need baking—huge mistake. As soon as I tried to spread the chocolate base on it, the crust crumbled like my self-confidence, becoming a mass of gooey disgusting chocolate cookie (pictured above). I ended up going with a frozen pie crust, which unfortunately needs to be pre-baked—not very MacGyvery.
Step 2: Mix your gross vanilla-flavored chips with a half cup of the heavy cream in a medium-sized metal mixing bowl. Turn your hair dryer on high and hold it against the bottom of the bowl, and with your other hand stir the chip-cream mixture slowly until smooth. Once it's smooth (shouldn't take more than a few minutes), cover and chill.
I found the best way to perform this balancing act was to point the hair dryer straight up, put the bowl on the nozzle, and press the whole precarious contraption into a table for some kind of stability. This is, of course, highly dangerous. Hopefully your hair dryer, like mine, is flat on the bottom side, but if worse comes to worst (or if you're some kind of wuss), have somebody else hold the hair dryer.
Take another mixing bowl, or the first one if you've moved the results of Step 2 to a different vessel, and mix the semisweet chocolate chips with 2 Tbsp of the cream. Repeat the hair dryer chocolate-melting technique and stir until smooth. Spread this chocolate mixture on the bottom of the pie crust and chill.
Step 3: Beat the rest of the cream, 1.25 cups worth, until it's stiff whipped cream. This is kind of a pain in the ass if you don't have an electric beater, which if you're using this recipe you surely don't, but it doesn't take that long with a whisk. As much as I'd like to use aerosol whipped cream here, it won't work; you've got to fold some stuff into the whipped cream and the aerosol type would deflate.
Step 4: Fold the vanilla chocolate chip mixture into the whipped cream, along with about a third of a small orange's worth of zest. That's about a teaspoon, if you can figure out a way to actually measure zest. Here I ran into my most damning problem: My whipped cream wasn't quite whipped enough. It seemed fine as I set down the whisk, but I guess it wasn't stiff enough because it sort of lost its stiffness and turned into puffy cream rather than whipped cream once I folded the vanilla and orange zest into it. Try not to cry directly into this mixture: You'll want to, because it's the most depressing thing you've ever cooked, but it will add unwanted saltiness.
Step 5: Get out your pie crust and layer about a third of a can of repulsive cranberry gelatin product on top of the chocolate that's already there. Then layer the quivering mass of nearly-whipped cream, horrible artificially flavored vanilla chocolate chips, and orange zest on top of the cranberry. The recipe I used calls for you to run a knife through the finished pie to marble the white top with red from the cranberries, but I used that jello cranberry stuff, which is too solid to really spread color around. I halfheartedly ran the knife through anyway but it just looks like somebody really weak tried to slice the pie and barely made it through the whipped cream layer. Anyway, chill this monstrosity for about 6 hours while it sets.
Step 6: Normally this last step would be something cheerful like "Eat!" or "Enjoy!" or "Dig in!" but for God's sake please do not do any of those things. Yeah, I may have extra-ruined it with my un-whipped cream and my can-shaped cranberry jello cylinder of sadness, but in my defense, I think this pie had zero hope to begin with. What I can say is that the hair dryer was not at fault—it's actually not a terrible way to melt chocolate. Usually I'd use a double boiler but that's kind of a pain to set up and honestly I think the hair dryer did pretty much as good a job.
How did it taste? It tasted horrible enough that I actually considered not posting it because I thought it might damage the international reputation of American cuisine. It's horrible enough that I wouldn't eat it while stoned, drunk, or literally starving. The bottom layer of chocolate was way too thick and hard (since it's just melted chocolate with a tiny bit of cream, it's pretty much a candy bar, not a mousse), the naturally vomitous flavor of the cranberry jelly remained woefully unchanged, and the whipped cream tasted like an orange-creamsicle-flavored medicine you might get at the dentist.
This is the worst thing I've ever cooked. Please, nobody ever make this (at least, not the way I did).