Two options for easy Easter supper

Jeanmarie Brownson
The Daily Meal

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.

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.

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.

Simple seared pork chops are covered with creamy baby bella sauce.


Ready in 20 minutes

10 minutes (prepare time) + 10 minutes (cook time)

2 to 4 servings


You can make any number of chops with this method, just be sure the chops are in a single, uncrowded layer in the pan. The salt mixture here is sufficient for four chops. Leftover pork tastes great thinly sliced on a sandwich or in a green salad.

  • 2 to 4 bone-in, center-cut pork loin chops, each 1-inch thick and weighing 8 ounces
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt or 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sweet paprika
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 tablespoon expeller pressed canola oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil or peanut oil
  • Cherry-balsamic gastrique or Creamy baby bella sauce, optional, see recipes
  • Sliced green onions, for garnish


Step 1: Pat chops dry and place on a plate. In a small dish mix together 1 ½ teaspoons each kosher salt and sweet paprika along with ½ teaspoon each black pepper and granulated garlic. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over all sides of the pork chops. Cover chops loosely. If desired, refrigerate for several hours (up to 8 hours).

Step 2: Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit convection or 425 degrees Fahrenheit conventional. While the oven heats, let chops come to room temperature if necessary.

Step 3: Heat a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet, griddle or ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium heat until a drop of water sizzles on contact. Swirl oil in pan. Use tongs to add chops (in a single, uncrowded layer). Let cook, without turning, until deeply golden on the bottom, about 4 minutes. Flip chops and immediately slide the pan into the hot oven. Cook, without turning, until center of chop is slightly firm (but not hard) when pressed or 145 degrees Fahrenheit on an instant-read thermometer, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from the oven to a plate; tent with foil to keep warm while you reheat the sauce.

Step 4: Serve chops topped with a spoonful of your chosen sauce. Garnish with sliced green onions.

Butterflied pork tenderloin is served with cherry balsamic gastrique.


Ready in 20 minutes

14 minutes (prepare time) + 5 minutes (cook time)

3 to 4 servings


If you chose not to butterfly the pork tenderloin, simply marinate it whole in the refrigerator for several hours. Roast the whole tenderloin at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 to 20 minutes; the internal temperature should be about 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Let rest 5 minutes before slicing.


  • 1 pork tenderloin, about 1 to 1 ¼ pounds
  • ¼ cup unfiltered cider vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon each salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon finely chopped rosemary or thyme leaves
  • Cherry balsamic gastrique or Creamy baby bella sauce, optional, see recipes
  • Fresh rosemary or thyme sprigs, for garnish


Step 1: Trim and butterfly the pork tenderloin as follows: Use a sharp knife to remove all the silver skin from outside of the tenderloin. Then cut the tenderloin lengthwise down the middle making an incision about 1 inch deep. Use clean hands to open the cut like a book. Then make a lengthwise incision about ½ inch deep on either side of the first cut. Again, open the tenderloin like a book or unfolding a letter. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the meat and use a meat mallet to pound the tenderloin into a uniform 1/2-inch thickness.

Step 2: In the bottom of a shallow dish, mix together ¼ cup cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and ½ teaspoon each salt, pepper and rosemary.

Step 3: Put the pork tenderloin into the marinade. Turn to coat all sides. Let stand at room temperature about 30 minutes. Or, refrigerate loosely covered up to several hours.

Step 4: Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit convection or 425 degrees Fahrenheit conventional. While the oven heats, remove tenderloin from the fridge to come to room temperature if necessary.

Step 5: To cook, heat a large ovenproof pan or well-seasoned cast-iron griddle or skillet over medium high heat until a drop of water sizzles on contact. Remove pork from marinade. Swirl remaining 1 tablespoon oil in pan, then add tenderloin. Cook 3 minutes without turning. Flip pork, then immediately transfer the pan to the hot oven. Cook until nearly firm when pressed with a finger or 145 degrees Fahrenheit on an instant-read thermometer, about 3 minutes.

Step 6: Remove to a cutting board to rest for 5 minutes while you make or reheat the sauce of your choice. Thinly slice the meat. Serve with the sauce. Garnish with herbs.


Ready in 20 minutes

10 minutes (prepare time) + 10 minutes (cook time)

Makes about 2 cups


Look for frozen pitted cherries in the freezer case. Dried cherries, softened in warm water can be substituted, as can fresh cherries in season. This recipe also tastes great with fresh or frozen raspberries.


  • 1 tablespoon each unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium-size red onion, halved, thinly sliced in wedges
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh jalapeño or ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
  • 1 ½ to 2 cups (about 8 ounces) frozen pitted sweet or tart red cherries (or a combination), thawed
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, plus more to taste
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or grains of paradise


Step 1: In a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon each butter and oil and swirl until butter is melted. Add 1 medium red onion, halved and sliced. Saute until soft and golden, about 5 minutes.

Step 2: Stir in ¾ cup red wine and boil hard to reduce wine by half, about 2 minutes. Stir in 1 clove finely chopped garlic and 1 teaspoon minced jalapeño if using; cook 1 minute.

Step 3: Stir in 2 cups of pitted cherries and simmer until cherries are soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar and heat to a simmer. Season with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Taste and adjust with a little more vinegar if desired. Remove from heat.

Step 3: Mixture can be covered and refrigerated up to 4 days. Serve warm.


Ready in 20 minutes

10 minutes (prepare time) + 10 minutes (cook time)

Makes about 1 ½ cups


Baby bella mushrooms, aka cremini mushrooms, are simply small-sized portabella mushrooms. Their darker color and deeper flavor taste great here, but button mushrooms work too. If you have access to morels, fresh or reconstituted dry, they add a superb flavor and texture as well.

Make your own dried porcini powder by pulverizing dried porcini mushrooms in a spice grinder or order it online from


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ pound fresh baby bella or button mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup dry white wine or vermouth
  • 2 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
  • 4 or 6 fresh (or reconstituted dried) small morel mushrooms, halved, optional
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers
  • ½ teaspoon dried porcini powder, optional
  • ½ teaspoon minced fresh rosemary or ¼ teaspoon dried
  • Salt, freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup mascarpone or heavy (whipping) cream, plus more as needed
  • 1 or 2 skinny green onions, trimmed, thinly sliced


Step 1: Heat a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons butter and ½ pound sliced mushrooms. Saute until nicely golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Add ¼ cup dry white wine and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half.

Step 2: Add 2 thinly sliced garlic cloves and cook 1 minute. Add 4 to 6 halved morel mushrooms if desired, 1 tablespoon drained capers, ½ teaspoon dried porcini powder and ½ teaspoon minced fresh rosemary (or ¼ teaspoon dried). Season with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon fresh black pepper.

Step 2: Swirl in ¼ cup mascarpone or heavy cream until heated through. Add green onions.

Step 3: Cover and refrigerate up to several days. Reheat to serve, adding a little water (or more cream) to loosen the sauce as desired.