Whatcha Got Cookin’ – Nepenthe’s Soft-Shell Pork-Belly BLT


Whatcha Got Cookin’ is a weekly Rock-n-Roll recipe for you to try out yourself, or just to wet your appetite and have the pros make it for you.  Whatcha Got Cookin’ is made possible by the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s Maryland’s Best Programs.

This week we are going to try Nepenthe’s Soft Shell Pork Belly B.L.T. with Avocado and Lemon Tarragon Aioli. This dish was created by Nepenthe’s chef Jeremy Price, and it’s on the menu all week for carry out, along with beer and merch to go. Nepenthe Brewing Company is at 3626 Falls Road in Hampden.


1 soft shell crab cleaned – here’s a video of how to clean a crab, but most markets also sell them prepped.

1 cup buttermilk

1 all purpose flour

1 cup corn starch

1 Tbsp butter

1/2 Tbsp crab seasoning (I like J.O. crab spice)

1 cup Kosher salt

1 cup light brown sugar

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 light beer (I like Nepenthe’s Kolsch)

1 loaf of really good bread (I like Cunningham’s sliced white)

1/2 avocado sliced

1 tomato sliced

1 handful of leaf lettuce

1 lemon

1/4 cup of fresh tarragon chopped

1 cup mayo

1/2 Tbsp Dijon mustard

1 egg yolk


For the pork belly:

One day in advance, acquire a 1 pound square of pork belly from your local butcher, or a high end grocery store. A pound of belly is more than you’ll need, but will come in handy in a day or two when you are making breakfast sandwiches. Ok, now, mix together the brown sugar and salt, and rub it all over the belly so it’s evenly coated. Next wrap it up in plastic and refrigerate overnight. Put it on a plate so it doesn’t leak all over your fridge.  The next day, your belly should be good and cured.  Now rinse off the belly in cold water, and toss into a 2 inch deep baking pan, that’s slightly bigger than the piece of pork. Add soy sauce, and 1/2 of that beer, and wrap the dish in plastic, then foil. Bake in a standard convention oven at 275 degrees, for 4 hours. Immediately drink the other half of that beer, and hopefully you have a few more, because it’s going to be awhile. Once your pork belly is out of the oven, and fully cooled down, and ‘change your life delicious’, slice it into long 1/2 inch thick slabs. In a medium sauté pan, fry two slabs of belly til crispy on both sides. Set aside belly, and save that sauté pan, and the rendered pork fat for frying the crab later.

For The Aioli:

In a mixing bowl, combine mayo, zest and juice of the lemon, tarragon, Dijon, and egg yolk, and whisk together until smooth.

For The Crab:

In a small bowl, soak your soft shell crab in the buttermilk while we make the dredge.  Next mix flour, cornstarch, and crab seasoning in a medium mixing bowl. Now grab that pork pan from earlier, add the butter, and get it hot again on the stove.  While the pan is heating up, pull the crab out of the buttermilk, and dredge it in your flour mixture, making sure it’s completely coated. Don’t rush this part. The more thoroughly coated, the more delicious crispy bits you’ll have when we fry it. Shake off excess breading. When your pork fat and butter are nice and hot, fry your crab till super crispy, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer crab to a few paper towels while we start to build this monstrosity.


Toast or grill 2 slices of Cunningham’s white bread. Don’t skimp on the bread fool!  You’re almost there. Now generously slather both slices with the aioli.  Next, building from the bottom slice up, layer leaf lettuce, 4 slices of tomato, your crispy crab, crispy pork belly, sliced avocado, and finally top with the other slice of toast. Yay! You did it!  Carefully cut in half, grab a friend to help you eat this thing, and pair it with Nepenthe’s Beebweepa IPA.


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