Son-in-Law of Local Family Does Barbecue Right

Smoked Brisket, Sage Green Beans and Cheesy Mushroom Potatoes topped with Cream Gravy with a dish of Charles Dodson’s own barbecue sauce on the side.

Although Charles Dodson III of Mesquite, Texas has never lived in Chautauqua County or even on this side of the country, he has visited the area many times, having married Rhonda Simmons Dodson, a native of Ashville.

“My mom is actually a really good cook. My grandmother was not.”

During the school year he and his sister would eat the TV dinners his mother left for them.

“We were the original latch key kids,” he says good naturedly.

His cooking journey began at 10 years of age when he had a desire to, not only experiment with food, but to add flavor to the frozen dinners.

Charles Dodson III has been cooking since he was a young boy, but did not realize it was his passion until he was in his 20s.

“I would try to fancy them up by adding butter to the carrots and onions and water to the peas to soften them,” he says.

The siblings spent their days with their grandmother during summer months and ate whatever she served them.

“My grandmother would make beans and cornbread, but never seasoned or added anything to the beans but water.”

By the age of thirteen he was a Frugal Gourmet fan. Shortly thereafter he started adding beer to the oil in which he fried fish, not realizing the beer could be added to the batter. He was careful to use a small amount of the beverage so his father wouldn’t miss it.

While studying computer science in college, he did not have an opportunity to do much cooking. He met his wife while she was attending college and living with her brother, Tim Simmons, whose house was behind Dodson’s church. It was not until after they married that he realized he really did have a passion to cook. He also knew he wanted to make his own food and not buy someone else’s or eat processed food.

In the early 1990s he began jotting down recipes in a notebook as he developed them. He eventually bought a smoker to get away from using bottled liquid smoke. While he was a supervisor at a call center, he would take food to work to thank the employees.

“Two of my co-workers told me I should open a restaurant,” he says.

“I’ve always been entrepreneurial and began doing a little catering for Thanksgiving or on occasion smoked a brisket or chicken and made sides.”

He officially started his catering business, Chuck’s Backyard Grill, in 2016. He “basically will cater most anything” but barbecue is his specialty. “I’ve perfected my barbecue recipes, rubs and sauce, working to be sure everything is perfect. I love doing it.”

Dodson says it takes 12-18 hours to do a brisket “just right” and that he sets an alarm and checks the fire every 15 minutes. Brisket and turkey are done at 200-225 degrees and take the longest. Sausages, chicken, pork chops and ribs are done at a different temperature.

“A lot of people love barbecue, but they don’t want to take the time it takes to do it. I like to do barbecue the way I like it,” he states. “When you go out to have it, even here in Texas, the restaurants use thin sauce. Mine is thick and rich.”

He likes to add flavor to his side dishes. Bacon, cheddar and jalapenos are common ingredients in some of his potato dishes. The skins are included when he cooks and mashes potatoes. He makes chicken stock from thighs and drumsticks.

“When you buy chicken stock in the store, it is dark and not the way it is supposed to look. It should be light.”

Creating new dishes or flavor additives, such as his homemade liquid smoke, gives him pleasure. He has created a bacon cooking sauce, consisting of three different liquids, which he says makes crisp and perfectly golden bacon as seen in TV commercials.

“I don’t consider cooking any kind of dent in my masculinity. My wife loves it,” he confesses. “I love putting love in my food and to see the enjoyment and smiles on people’s faces.”

He involved his children in his food preparation when they were young.

“We created a lot of recipes, such as mac and cheese with smoked sausage, sour cream, etcetera. I would let the kids choose the ingredients, unless they were ingredients that wouldn’t go well in a recipe.” he says. “I’ve started cooking with my oldest grandson.”

Aside from cooking, Dodson loves building and working with computers and holds a job in data security. He has been a Dallas Cowboys fan since he was six years old, even before he started experimenting in the kitchen. High performance vehicles are another of his passions and he plans to one day own another Buick Grand National, which was the first car he owned. He admits he found the houses of the passengers of the church bus he once drove by looking for the family’s car or the car of a neighbor.

He has a “fairly large” comic book collection with Batman being his favorite super hero. He enjoys guns and hunting deer, but has hunted squirrel, quail, rabbit and mule deer.

“If it’s a game animal, I like to hunt it. I’d like to go up north to go moose hunting.”

The pitmaster and his wife have a son and a daughter and are the grandparents of three grandchildren, an eighteen-month old grandson and his seven month old twin siblings.

His wife’s parents, Jim and Nancy Simmons still reside in the area during the mildest part of the year and her brother Jamie Simmons is a year-round resident living outside of Jamestown.

“He is a good cook,” says his mother-in-law. “He’s from Texas and likes to use spice.”

The Texan shares a few of his original recipes.

“I wanted to choose some recipes that would make an entire meal. The red wine used in the vinaigrette does not have to be expensive.”

The Sage Green Beans were created when he was looking for a way to prepare green beans his then six or seven-year old son would eat. He added sage, onion, garlic and jalapenos and to this day his son, who is 26 years old, will only eat his father’s green beans.

The avid cook came up with the Cheesy Mushroom Potatoes recipe when he and his wife wanted something different from regular mashed potatoes. He added Himalayan pink salt, which since has become the only salt he will use and a can of mushrooms he found in his pantry and then added cheese and a few other ingredients.

“I think this is what the Lord wants me to do because this is my passion.”

Dodson welcomes questions from anyone wanting cooking advice or tips at

Red Wine Vinaigrette

2 c red wine, divided

2 c apple cider vinegar, divided

2 c olive oil

1/4 c white onion

1/4 c yellow onion

1/4 c red onion

1/4 c green onion

1 tsp each salt, pepper, ginger, allspice, tarragon, coriander, celery salt, sage, basil, thyme, savory

chopped jalapeno, optional

3 cloves garlic, chopped

2 T brown sugar

Combine 1 cup each of the wine and vinegar and all of the olive oil in a pot. Stir well. Add chopped onions and garlic. Add spices and stir well. Slowly bring to a boil over medium heat. Turn heat to medium-low and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring frequently. Strain the mixture to ensure that all of the little pieces are removed. Add remaining cup of red wine and apple cider vinegar. Chill until ready to use. Serve on favorite salad.

Tomato Soup

4 lbs Roma tomatoes

2 T garlic, chopped

1 sweet onion, chopped

2 shallots, chopped

2 stalks green onion, chopped

3 T butter

3 T olive oil

1 T salt

1 T black pepper

2 T sugar

3 T basil

3 cans tomato paste (more if you like it thicker, less if you like it thinner)

1/2 c good Tequila (I use 1800 Reposado.)

3 c chicken broth

3 1/2 c half and half

1/2 c sour cream

Blanch tomatoes and skin. Add with remaining ingredients except for half and half and sour cream. Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until the vegetables are almost completely dissolved. Strain soup through cheese cloth, making sure to get as much liquid as possible. Return soup to pot and add half and half and sour cream. Simmer until sour cream is dissolved and at desired temperature.

Meat Loaf

1lb lean ground beef

1lb ground pork

2 T Worcestershire Sauce

3/4 c cheddar cheese croutons, crushed

1 T rosemary

1 T basil

1 T liquid smoke

2 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp coriander

1 tsp celery salt

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp sugar

1/4 c onion, chopped

2 T jalapeno, chopped

1 T garlic, chopped

1/4 c celery, chopped

1/4 c green onion, chopped

In a large bowl, combine meat. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Divide mixture in half and put each half in a loaf pan. Top with favorite barbecue sauce (I use homemade). Cook at 400 degrees for approximately 50 minutes or until meat is cooked all the way through.

Cream Gravy

4 c cream

1 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp coriander

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp sugar

1/4 c clarified pig fat

2 T corn starch

In a deep skillet, heat cream over medium heat. Add spices and stir well. Melt pig fat in microwave, being sure to avoid overheating. Stir corn starch into pig fat. Blend well. Add fat/corn starch mixture to cream mixture. Cook over medium heat until desired thickness is acquired.

Cheesy Mushroom Potatoes

8 medium to large well-scrubbed potatoes

1/2 stick butter

4 eggs

2 cans mushrooms

1/2 white onion

2 T garlic, chopped

1 shallot, chopped

1 jalapeno, chopped

2 tsp salt

2 tsp black pepper

2 tsp coriander

1/4 c sour cream

1 can cream of mushroom soup

2 c shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided

Boil until a fork will not stick in potatoes. (I prefer leaving the skins on.) Drain. Mash potatoes. Add butter, stirring until melted. Beat eggs and add to potatoes stir well. Add mushrooms, vegetables, spices, sour cream and cream of mushroom soup, combing well. Add 1 cup cheddar cheese and stir well. Place in mixture in baking dish and set oven to 350. Top with remaining cheese. Bake until cheese is toasted.

Sage Green Beans

4 cans green beans

1/2 c white onion

2 tsp salt

2 tsp black pepper

1 T garlic

Jalapeno, if desired (banana or cayenne peppers are good as well)

3 T rubbed sage

Add all ingredients to pot and cook until green beans reach desired doneness.