Clermont woman goes 'whole hog' to win cook-off

Clermont woman goes ‘whole hog’ to win cook-off

Brian Smith
Contributing Writer


            Rhonda Dales was recently selected as the grand prize winner at the 20th Annual KCTN Pork Cook-Off, which was held Oct. 24 at Johnson’s Reception Hall in Elkader.

            Dales was one of eight finalists selected to participate in the cook-off, during which a panel of three judges sampled each recipe before selecting a winner. Dales’ entry of One-Pan Whisky Pork Chops took first place at the competition, earning her the grand prize of a 51-inch Samsung HD TV, a Samsung sound bar and subwoofer, plus a whole hog.

            When asked her motivation for entering the contest, Dales said, “The prizes they were offering were outstanding, plus I really like to cook and bake.”

            Dales explained that she learned to cook out of necessity, being from a large family. She continues to enjoy spending time in the kitchen doing a lot of cooking and baking, especially around the holidays. She is registered on a few different cooking and baking websites that send her e-mails with recipes on a fairly regular basis.

            “I probably get about four to six recipes a week in my e-mail. I can’t remember where I got the pork chop recipe for sure, but I am pretty sure it came from one of those sources,” shared Dales.

             After learning that her recipe had been selected as a finalist, Dales had to plan what other dishes would go best with her main course and how best to present the whole package. The competition requires that you prepare an entire meal, which is served to the judges at your table. Contestants were judged not only on the food, but presentation as well.

            Dales’ meal included the whisky pork chops, garlic mashed potatoes, bacon- wrapped green beans, a spiked cider drink, and apple-maple bacon cupcakes for dessert. The whiskey and pork theme, mason jar mugs, and festive table decorations all worked together to garner her a first-place finish.

            “I had actually attended a few of these competitions before and even entered this one once before. It’s important to give some thought to your theme and tie the whole meal together somehow,” explained the grand prize winner.

            Dales believes the most difficult part of the cook-off is timing everything correctly. Finalists must prepare their food at home, then travel to the site of the competition, get everything on their table set up, keep the food warm, and then present the meal. Getting everything in the right place at the right time takes a lot of organization.

            A few years ago, the Clermont woman had taken second place in the pork cook-off. She had also previously taken second place in a pie-baking competition during Clermont Brick City days a while back. This time she was able to break through and win the competition.

            “When they were announcing the winners and called third place, then second place, and I didn’t hear my name, I just figured I didn’t place this time. Then when they called my name for first place, I was totally shocked,” declared the culinary enthusiast.

            Dales received lots of encouragement from friends who had come to the competition and came over to her table to wish her well before the judging. She also had support from family, as her daughter Heather and granddaughter Aaliyah had come from Waterloo.

            “It was nice to have my own little cheering section,” said Dales with a smile.

            Rockweiler’s of Decorah, Waukon, and Prairie du Chien provided the TV and sound system, while Clayton County Pork Producers provided the whole hog, all of which Dales will be receiving as the grand prize winner.

            If you are interested in giving Dales’ recipe a try, it is provided for you below.


 One-Pan Whisky Pork Chops
Rhonda Dales


4-6 oz. bone-in center-cut pork chops – trimmed and seasoned with salt and pepper

2/3 cup fat-free sour cream

½ cup water

2 T. all-purpose flour

½ tsp. thyme, chopped

¼ tsp. kosher salt

2 T. extra virgin olive oil

½ cup chopped onion

1 8-oz. pkg. sliced baby bella mushrooms

½ cup whisky


Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Combine the sour cream, water, flour, salt, pepper, and thyme in a small bowl. Heat oil in a large oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Add the seasoned pork chops and sauté 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown. (You really need to get a good sear on them!) Remove pork from pan. Add onions and mushrooms and sauté for 3 minutes. Add whisky; cook 1 minute or until most of the liquid evaporates. Stir sour cream mixture into pan. Return pork to pan and spoon sauce over the pork. Cover the pan with tin foil and bake in oven for 1 hour.

Serve with mashed potatoes and green beans or any of your favorite vegetables. Spoon the gravy over the pork and the potatoes.



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