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Wisdom from Grandma 

Spokane Chef Jason Rex takes home cookin' to a new level

click to enlarge YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak

To cook “from scratch” seems to be a dying art — college kids may think the only meaning of the word relates to an itch. But Chef Jason Rex, co-owner of Scratch Restaurant, knows the true culinary meaning. After all, he learned it from his grandmother, Eve.

“She ran restaurants for as long as I can remember,” Rex explains. “She was a great cook, had a wonderful garden, canned and baked. She was my inspiration and her lifestyle is the focus of Scratch Restaurant.”

Buoyed with a passion for home cooking, Rex went on to attend Western Culinary Institute in Portland, followed by stints at the Coeur d’Alene Resort in Idaho and Fugazzi in Spokane. So owning his own restaurant hasn’t brought too many surprises for Rex. “I’ve been in the industry long enough to know what was in store for me.” He also credits his co-owner, Connie Naccarato: “Together, we are able to give our guests what they want, and that feels great.”

An avid hunter and fisherman, Rex loves to cook and offer to his dining guests what he calls “shock” items — dishes like veal tongue, black chicken and frog legs. “Spokane diners are creative and knowledgeable,” he reflects. “They know good food and have been eating it up.”

Rex believes he has a responsibility to consider his patrons’ health when preparing food. He attempts to use organic and locally grown ingredients. He also relies on heart-healthy oils in his sauces, soups and desserts whenever possible.

Reducing stress is also a big factor in his kitchen. “There is no yelling here,” Rex says. “I have always felt if you surround yourself with talent and treat your employees with respect, you will get a lot more production out of them. A ‘thank you’ goes a long way.”

He continues to inspire those around him, including his children Jordyn and Gavin. “When kids keep busy. they are less likely to get into trouble,” says the chef and dad.

On a cold autumn day, try Jason Rex’s recipe for Oxtail Stew. You may be relieved to learn you won’t need to corner an ox and lop off its tail to make this recipe; oxtail refers to the tail of any beef cattle. It is usually cut into short lengths by the butcher.

Oxtail Stew From Scratch

Ingredients:
2 pounds oxtail
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon fresh ground pepper
1 pound carrots, diced
1 pound yellow onion, diced
1 pound celery, diced
3 cups red wine
1 cup barley
3 tablespoons garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
1 pound red bell pepper, minced
1 teaspoon jalapeno pepper, minced
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced

Directions:

Trim oxtail of any extra fat. Add olive oil, salt and pepper and oxtail to large, heavy stewpot and brown oxtail. Add carrots, onion, and celery and cook until lightly browned. Deglaze pot with red wine, scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. Add 1 gallon of water and simmer for two hours. Remove oxtail and separate meat from tailbones. Add meat and all other remaining ingredients back to the stock mixture. Simmer for one hour.

Place oxtail bones in separate 1-gallon soup pot and simmer for one hour in a gallon of water. Strain this liquid and add to the original stew pot. Continue simmering for 25 minutes. Dinner’s ready!

Serves: 12, 1 cup per serving

Nutrition: calories 308, total fat 6g, carbohydrates 30g, protein 24g, 548mg sodium

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