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Posted at 2:00 PM ET, 11/17/2010

Who needs a stove? Not David Guas.

By Bonnie S. Benwick

When David Guas’s long-awaited Bayou Bakery opens tomorrow or Friday Saturday in Arlington (pending final inspection), and you’re standing in the lunch line trying to decide between the muffuletta and the arm drip (two sandwiches loaded with New Orleans charm), think about that headline: no stove.

Bayou Bakery's David Guas, making olive salad. (Bonnie S. Benwick/The Washington Post)

Because the café’s in a building without a gas feed, the 35-year-old chef had to tailor his menu and cooking around the spot where a high-BTU range would be.

“You work with what you got,” Guas says.

Which means that two portable induction burners, a TurboChef (speed convection), rack ovens and a designated fryer for beignets will do just fine.

The arm drip’s an homage to the roast beef and gravy sandwich served at Parasol’s in NOLA. Guas sourced grass-fed beef from a co-op in Virginia. His version’s the result of three rounds of testing to yield the right flavor profile.

He trims the fat cap on top round and renders it slowly in a pot on one of those burners while he braises great hunks of the meat in a pot of water with bay leaf on the second one, skimming the liquid along the way.

He adds flour to the fat to make a roux. It takes whisking and time to develop a deep caramel color. Soon it’s flecked with bits of meat from the renderings.

“That’s what we call roast beef gravy with debris,” Guas says. I've made the photo extra big so you can see what he's talking about:

Roux for the roast beef and gravy sandwich, dubbed the arm drip. (Bonnie S. Benwick)

He seasons the roux with onion salt, black pepper and garlic powder. Why not use fresh ingredients?

“I go back and forth on this,” he says. “Am I going to be cheffy or traditional? Then I think, ‘If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.’ Something like dried garlic is classic, and I want the flavor to be what people remember.”

Guas explains further by way of creole seasoning, which he blends himself with paprika, dried basil, dried thyme, dried oregano and more. “New Orleans cooks don’t use it for everything. They use salt, pepper and cayenne.”

The meat is cooled and wrapped for later. The dark roux goes into the pot of flavorful braising liquid to cook down into a thickened gravy. The deep beefy flavor is already there. Shredded meat and gravy will be combined to make a sloppy filling that’s topped with Swiss cheese, dressed upon request (mayonnaise, sautéed onions) and heaped on bread from a local bakery called the French Bread Factory: “It has the right crumb and crust,” Guas says.

On the kitchen shelf, a sure sign of New Orleans authenticity. (Bonnie S. Benwick/The Washington Post)

Since he left the Passion Food Group in September 2007 and the idea for Bayou Bakery moved closer to reality, Guas has had time to put this much thought into everything that will be served, down to the house-made onion marmalade (apple cider vinegar, Steen’s cane syrup) on the Jamie Stachowski-made, brat-style hot dog for the Catahoula, another offering on the sandwich menu that’s destined to become an instant hit.

Breakfast and desserts, including pralines made daily and his lemon icebox pie, are a separate world of wonder. Guas has tweaked recipes from “DamGoodSweet,” his 2009 cookbook that will be available at Bayou Bakery.

See you there.

-- Bonnie S. Benwick

By Bonnie S. Benwick  | November 17, 2010; 2:00 PM ET
Categories:  Chefs  | Tags:  Bonnie S. Benwick, chefs  
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WHERE? Arlington isn't THAT small.

Posted by: NNDArlington | November 17, 2010 5:23 PM | Report abuse

1515 N. Courthouse Rd., diagonally across from where the farmers market is held on Saturdays.

Posted by: benwickb | November 17, 2010 11:25 PM | Report abuse

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