Pork is fast, flavorful and perfect for weeknight cooking

Pork, peppers, mushroom and pea pods make an easy stir-fry.
Pork, peppers, mushroom and pea pods make an easy stir-fry. TNS

You just can’t beat pork for a quick and lean entree. Oh, sure, chicken breasts are fast, but pork comes in more easy-to-cook cuts and, let’s face it, is more flavorful.

The three recipes here come from three of our favorite food writers:

Pork and peppers stir-fry, Bill Daley, Chicago Tribune: There’s not much that’s easier to whip up at home than a stir-fry. Match this one, rich with pork and vegetables, to a variety of wines; below, we have options both white and red. Each plays up different qualities of the dish – do you love mushrooms? In it for the pork? Want to tone down the heat? Choose accordingly, and enjoy.

Pork chops with mustard-tarragon sauce, Susan Selasky, Detroit Free Press: With this sauce, the goal is a bit of sweetness from the shallots, an herbaceous tone from the sage and tanginess from the Dijon, which also acts as an emulsifier.

Cinnamon-spice pork tenderloin with roasted root vegetables, Ellie Krieger, Washington Post: Pork tenderloin is so easy to cook that I find myself relying on it for dinner quite often. Consequently, I'm always trying to reinvent it. Here, a rub is made from the same spices you might use to flavor an apple pie. It’s quick, cooked in one pan and rich with spices.

Pork chops with mustard-tarragon sauce

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes

Serves 4

With this recipe you’ll need an ovenproof skillet. The pork chops are first seared in the skillet and then finished in a 400-degree oven. If you don’t have an ovenproof skillet, skip the oven and just continue cooking the chops in the skillet. Once they are thoroughly cooked, transfer to the platter and make the pan sauce.

When I originally made this, I used fresh tarragon. But you can use any herb. Sage would be a nice addition, but use it sparingly because of its strong flavor.

Adapted from “Real Simple Dinner Tonight: Done!” by Real Simple magazine (Time Home Entertainment, $24.95).

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 boneless pork chops (about 1-inch thick)

Kosher salt and black pepper

2 small shallots, finely chopped

3/4 cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

Frisée salad:

Juice of 1 lemon

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons Dijon or honey Dijon mustard

Pinch of sugar

Pinch of salt and pepper

4 cups mix of frisee and Bibb lettuce, torn into pieces

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large ovenproof skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat.

Season the pork chops with kosher salt and black pepper. Add them to the skillet and brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast until cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the pork from the oven and transfer to a plate. Cover with foil to keep warm.

Set the skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Reduce heat and simmer until wine is reduced by half. Stir in the cream and simmer until the sauce just thickens. Stir in the mustard and tarragon.

In a glass measuring cup, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, Dijon, sugar, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Pour over greens and toss to coat.

Place the chops on a plate and spoon sauce over. Serve with frisée salad.

Per serving: 327 calories (44 % from fat), 16 g fat (5 g sat.), 4 g carb., 34 g protein, 620 mg sodium, 80 mg chol., 1 g fiber.

Pork and peppers stir-fry

Serves 4

Recipe by Bill Daley, Chicago Tribune.

2 tablespoons oil

3 green onions, chopped

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon minced ginger

1 tablespoon chili sauce

1/2 pound boneless pork loin, cut into strips

2 bell peppers (1 red and 1 yellow if available), sliced in narrow strips

1/2 pound sliced mushrooms

1/4 pound pea pods

Heat oil in a wok over high heat. Add green onions, garlic, ginger and chili sauce. Stir-fry until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add pork loin; stir-fry until fully cooked, 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

Stir-fry bell peppers and mushrooms. Add pea pods; stir-fry until all is crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Return pork mixture to skillet; reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until warmed through. Serve over rice.

Cinnamon-spice pork tenderloin with roasted root vegetables

Serves 6 to 8

You can choose your own favorite root vegetables; parsnips are particularly good with the spices and maple syrup.

Make ahead: The pork can be seasoned, wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 12 hours in advance. The vegetables can be cut, covered and refrigerated for up to 24 hours. Recipe from Ellie Krieger.

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

¼ teaspoon salt

2 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed of silver skin and excess fat (2 tenderloins)

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 pounds assorted root vegetables, such as carrots, parsnips, turnips and/or rutabaga, peeled and cut into ¾-inch chunks

2 tablespoons maple syrup

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. (You’ll need a large roasting pan that can also go on the stovetop.)

Combine the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, pepper and half (1/8 teaspoon) of the salt in a small bowl. Rub the mixture over the pork tenderloins.

Heat the oil in the roasting pan set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the pork tenderloins; cook for 5 to 6 minutes, turning every 1 to 2 minutes to evenly brown the tenderloins on all sides. Turn off the heat.

Add the root vegetables to the pork in the roasting pan; sprinkle the vegetables with the remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt. Use a spatula to turn the vegetables around in whatever oil and spice mixture is in the bottom of the pan. Baste the pork with the maple syrup, drizzling some of it over the vegetables. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast for 20 to 25 minutes or until the internal temperature of the pork registers 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.

Remove from the oven; transfer the pork to a platter to rest and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Stir the vegetables around in the pan, turning them over; return to the oven and roast for 10 to 15 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and have browned on at least one side.

Use a sharp knife to slice the pork on the diagonal. Serve topped with the warm roasted vegetables.

Per serving (based on 8): 260 calories, 26 g protein, 22 g carbohydrates, 8 g fat (2 g saturated), 75 mg cholesterol, 200 mg sodium, 5 g dietary fiber, 11 g sugar.