Red Carpet Popcorn Meatloaf

February 25, 2012
By

On Hollywood’s big night, watching the parade of glammed-up, jewel-bedecked ladies and monkey-suited men while munching unadorned popcorn will not do…think what Joan and Melissa would say!

Cacao nibs add yummy culinary bling to my air-popped corn. The lightly sweetened organic ones from Navitas are particularly nice. I toss in dried blueberries, toasted almonds, and oat cereal rings as well, creating a munch mix with the perfect film-star blend of glitz and obsession with power food.

If your Oscar-night ritual includes dinner, serve spinach salad with air-popped kernels tossed in as croutons, or float them on winter squash or creamy tomato soup.  Popcorn in this supporting role will excite as much comment as seeing a scruffy hipster play against type.

Popcorn Meatloaf, which I created years ago while exploring popcorn’s savory possibilities, is a tradition at my viewing party. The popcorn, whirled in a food processor,  replaces breadcrumbs as the binder. While keeping the meatloaf moist and adding appealing flavor, and it also makes it gluten-free.

For caramel corn lovers, try a Nutty Popcorn Bundt Ring. An original from my Essential Best Foods Cookbook it combines popcorn with melted marshmallows, toasted nuts and dried fruit. Packed into a ring mold, then turned out of the pan, it looks like an angel food cake. Served in slices, it provides the same guilty pleasure as popcorn balls and rice crisp squares.

Popcorn Meatloaf

Serves 4

Turkey produces a lighter meatloaf perfect served with broccoli or green beans while ground beef makes a denser loaf ideal with mashed potatoes. Use any kind of milk, including non-dairy. Using mini-loaf pans produces meatloaf that slices into squares perfect served as finger food on whole-grain toast spread with ketchup.

4 cups air-popped popcorn

One (1 1/3 pound) package 93% lean ground turkey, or lean ground beef

3/4 cup finely chopped celery

3/4 cup finely chopped green bell pepper

3/4 cup finely chopped onion

1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon brown mustard

1/4 cup milk or soymilk

1 large egg

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

1/3 cup chili sauce or ketchup

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Coat an 8-inch x 4-inch loaf pan, or two 5 1/2-inch x 3 1/2-inch loaf pans, with cooking spray.

In a food processor, pulse the popcorn in 5 second bursts until it is fine bits. Reserving 2 tablespoons for garnish, transfer the popcorn to a large mixing bowl.

Add all the other ingredients except the chili sauce to the popcorn and mix until well combined. Pack the mixture firmly into the prepared one or two pans. Spread the chili sauce evenly over the top of the meatloaf and sprinkle on the reserved popcorn bits.

Bake until an instant-read thermometer registers 160 F., 35 to 40 minutes for two small loaves, 60 minutes for one large meatloaf. Cool for 15 minutes before serving, or cool completely and serve at room temperature. Covered in the refrigerator, this meatloaf keeps for 3 days.

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