The executive sous chef at Cypress Bayou Casino in Charenton, McCue learned how to cook the old-school way. He started off as a 16-year-old prep cook at a Mexican restaurant in his home town of Tuscon, Ariz., and worked his way up through salads, desserts, sauté station, and grill, moving on to fine dining restaurants before being hired by Cypress Bayou executive chef David Laszczak to help open Mr. Lester's steakhouse in 1995. Last year the casino expanded with a satellite casino, Shorty's, that also houses a nightclub, Rox, and three restaurants, Café Bayou, Fresh, and RikRak, a high end Asian-fusion sushi bar.
McCue, as second in command to Laszczak, is in charge of all 11 restaurants in the two casinos. "It's a lot of paperwork," he says, but McCue spends more of his time in the kitchen. "I'm hands-on. I love to cook."
Twelve years at the steakhouse taught him a lot about meat. "I prefer cooking beef or veal. And I love using foie gras and truffles. A lot of what I do is simple, traditional food, things that depend on quality ingredients. I don't disguise that. If you get a lot of flavors going on it can go against you."
He doesn't really like to fiddle with desserts. "Dessert is more chemical cooking," he says. "I don't have the patience for that." However, for someone who doesn't care for desserts, he won gold medals in Lafayette and Best of Show in Shreveport for a dish called Hannah Banana, named for his daughter, a Maple-White Chocolate Mousse topped with chocolate butter and banana mascarpone cheese, served over a sauternes-spiked sauce Englaise and a trio of fruit coulis.
His Best of Show in Lafayette brought his total medal count up to 74. He won the coveted prize with his bread entry, a very rare category to sweep the competition. McCue says the idea behind it was a classic combination of red wine, raspberries and Brie cheese. The win pleased him so much, he has placed the Brie-Mushroom bread as a complimentary item on RikRak's menu from May 9 - 20.
Brie Cheese and Grilled Portabella Mushroom Bread, served with Raspberry Cabernet Butter:
2 teaspoons dry yeast
1 1/4 cups water
3 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 teaspoons olive oil
3 cups marinated and grilled portabella mushrooms, sliced
12 ounces Brie cheese, sliced 1/4 inch thick
3 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
Sprinkle yeast into 1 cup of the water in a bowl, leave for 5 minutes and stir to dissolve. Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the dissolved yeast and oil. Mix in the flour from the sides of the well. Stir in the reserved water, as needed, to form a soft, sticky dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead until smooth, silky and elastic, about 10 minutes. Put the dough in a clean oiled bowl and cover with a dish towel. Let rise until doubled in size, about 10 minutes. Shape the dough into a 14-inch-by-18 inch rectangle. Cover with a dish towel and let rest for 10 minutes. Spread the mushrooms and cheese evenly over the dough. Roll the dough like a swiss roll, starting at one of the shorter sides, but without rolling too tightly. Place on an oiled baking sheet. Use a skewer to pierce several holes though the dough to the baking sheet. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the oil, salt, pepper, parsley, basil and thyme. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 1 hour, until golden. Cool slightly, then drizzle the remaining oil on top.
1 pound butter
1 1/2 cups good red wine
1 tablespoon chopped fresh shallots
1/2 cup raspberry puree
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Let butter soften at room temperature. Combine red wine and shallots and let reduce to 1/2 cup; let cool. Whip softened butter in a mixer with whip attachment, add the cooled wine and shallot mixture, add the raspberry puree and fold in the parsley at the last minute. Serve cold with warm bread.