Perfectly Easy Pork For Easter

Like many, we traditionally serve ham on Easter Sunday. Once upon a time, my grandfather cured and smoked his own hams, harvested in the fall from the family farm. By spring, the ham proved perfectly ready for our large family to enjoy. (Read on or jump to pork recipes.)

Easter Recipes Perfect for Springtime

This year, like last, dictates a small gathering, so we'll dream of long-ago hams and instead enthrall our few guests with fresh pork perfectly seasoned and embellished with a luxurious sauce. Perhaps the best news is the speed at which small cuts of pork cook — a chop can be ready in 10 minutes and butterflied tenderloin in even less.

Seriously. Apply a simple seasoning in the morning and refrigerate while you pull together the sauce and the sides. For the holiday meal, I prepare a small, creamy potato gratin, steam asparagus to serve topped with chopped egg and dill, and toss a salad of romaine, radicchio and grapes with buttermilk dressing. Fresh bread and sweet butter are welcomed by all.

While the oven heats, the pork (chops or tenderloin) hang out on the counter to take the chill off. They'll need a brief sear in a very hot pan before their short sojourn in a hot oven. Trust me, the pork turns out juicy every time.

For chops, look for those cut from the lean loin. I prefer chops on the bone for added flavor, moisture and visual appeal. Look for center cut rib chops or porterhouse pork chops (with a T-bone shape and some of the tenderloin attached).

If choosing boneless chops, be sure they are about 1-inch thick; thinner chops dry out too easily. Skip pork blade chops for these purposes and use them instead for braises and moist heat cooking.

Pork tenderloin offers another option for quick cooking and easy slicing. Select a small tenderloin — about 1 pound — and use a sharp knife to butterfly it open to an even thickness that will cook in about 7 minutes. Marinate the tenderloin to add flavor.

Whether you opt for chops or tenderloin, cook it to 145 degrees Fahrenheit—no more. It's preferable (and perfectly safe) to see a hint of pink in the meat. You'll be pleased at the tender juicy texture, too.

24 Ham Recipes to Level Up Your Easter

To make these easy dishes super special, it doesn't take much to dress them up. Cherry balsamic gastrique is a simple sweet-and-sour sauce made from frozen cherries, red onions and red wine. A splash of balsamic vinegar adds tang. Make the sauce several days in advance and simply reheat it in the pan juices after searing the meat.

Another sauce option, perfect for a holiday meal, showcases baby portabella mushrooms and rich mascarpone. When I have them, I tuck a few morels from our spring foraging in the pan. A sprinkle of porcini powder boosts the umami effect of the mushrooms.

Two easy pork preparations. Two delicious sauces that can be made in advance to serve with either the chops or the tenderloin — or a smoky family ham if that's on your menu. Happy Easter. Better days, and bigger gatherings, are certainly in our future.

Butterflied Pork Tenderloin 

Pork tenderloin cooks so quickly that it is a favorite for weeknight suppers. But it can also dry out in a flash. Here, the tenderloin is marinated for a flavor and texture boost and is butterflied so that it cooks even faster and more evenly. All of this will help prevent it from drying out. When paired with a sweet and tangy cherry gastrique, pork tenderloin is taken to a whole new level. 

For the Butterflied Pork Tenderloin recipe, click here.

For the Cherry Balsamic Gastrique recipe, click here.

Simple Seared Pork Chops

A good pork chop can make you question why steak seems more popular. This recipe could not be easier and can be the base for a weeknight dinner or holiday celebration. To take it to the next level, pair it with a creamy baby bella sauce, which is made with flavor-packed ingredients like mushrooms, garlic, white wine, capers and rosemary. A touch of mascarpone or cream brings it into decadent territory.

For the Simple Seared Pork Chops recipe, click here.

For the Creamy Baby Bella Sauce recipe, click here.