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Recipe: Chef John Zucker’s Fried Green Tomatoes with Pork Belly Croutons

Learn how to make this fridge-friendly and reheatable dish perfect for holiday cooking prep.

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Tis the season for steaming hot bowls of soup, warm gingerbread cookies, spiked eggnog, and time in the kitchen spent making memories that will last a lifetime.

Enter: Chef John Zucker, the creative force behind Cru Café and Cru Catering, with his mouthwatering recipe for Fried Green Tomatoes with Pork Belly Croutons.

Hungry yet? Here’s everything you need to get started.


This dish is perfect for those out-of-town guests.

Photo provided, Andrew Cebulka

Fried green tomato

Ingredients to yield ~5 orders

  • 5 green tomatoes
  • ¼ cup basil
  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 4 eggs
  • ¼ cup cream
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup Bulgarian feta
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 medium size mixing bowls
  • Peanut oil
  • Saucepan


  1. Slice the green tomatoes in ¼ width slices. In a food processor, add the Panko and basil and blend until the basil combines with the Panko.
  2. Breading station: In a medium size mixing bowl, beat the eggs with the cream. Then, add the Panko mixture to another medium mixing bowl. In your third mixing bowl, add the flour and salt and pepper to taste. Line the bowls up in this order: Flour, eggs, Panko mixture.
  3. Lightly coat the tomato slices one at a time with flour, then egg wash, then bread crumbs. Place coated tomatoes on a sheet tray. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 min.
  4. In the saucepan, heat up the oil to create a small fryer. Note: Do not fill your saucepan too high with oil. Keep the oil at least four inches from the top of the pan. You will need at least two inches of oil to cook the tomatoes, so make sure you have a tall saucepan.
  5. Heat the oil to 375°.
  6. Place two to three tomatoes in the oil at a time. Cook for three minutes or until golden brown and place on a sheet tray.

You can cool the tomatoes and reheat them in the oven or serve them immediately.

Smoked tomato caramel

Ingredients to yield ~4.5 cups

  • 8 large vine ripe tomatoes. Note: Tomato water should yield 4 cups.
  • 4 cups sugar


  • Smoke tomatoes whole in a smoker for two hours at a low temperature. Then, remove tomatoes from the smoker and push through a potato ricer. Set aside the liquid.
  • Take the tomato pulp and squeeze out the liquid from the tomatoes. If there is any tomato pulp left in the liquid, push through a fine chinois (cone-shaped metal strainer) to remove.
  • Put liquid in a 4-quart saucepan, add sugar, and mix well.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer.
  • Cook for an hour or until the mixture appears a dark burgundy color and has a thicker consistency.
  • Remove from heat and let the mixture cool at room temperature. Note: Do not refrigerate.

Smoked pork belly + pork belly brine

  • Pork belly (half or whole)
  • 3 qt cold water
  • 1.5 qt crushed ice
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ¾ cup kosher salt
  • 1T toasted whole coriander
  • 1T whole pink peppercorns
  • 8-10 whole star anise
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 limes (cut into 8 pieces)
  • 2 lemons (cut into 8 pieces)
  • 1 large orange (cut into 8 pieces)
  • 1 bunch thyme


  • Bring water to a boil. Add sugar and salt and mix until dissolved, then add all of the other ingredients.
  • Remove from heat and add the ice to cool.
  • Make shallow cuts (score) in the top of the pork belly to prevent curling and to help absorb the brine liquid.
  • Place in a large container and add the brine. Note: Make sure the container will allow for the pork belly to be fully covered by the brine liquid. Refrigerate for 24 hours.
  • Remove the pork belly from the liquid and bring your smoker to 250°.
  • Smoke the pork belly at 250° for 3.5 hours or until a fork easily pierces the flesh but it does not fall apart. The internal temperature should read approximately 180-190°.
  • Remove from the smoker and place the pork belly into a perforated pan while still warm.
  • Place the perforated pan into a non-perforated pan to collect any liquid while cooling.
  • Cover the pork belly with parchment paper and place a second non-perforated pan on top of the pork belly that is covered with parchment paper.
  • Place heavy weights on top of the second non-perforated pan. Note: Two 10 lb. cans should be sufficient.
  • Refrigerate for 24 hours.

Plate preparation and assembly

  • Preheat the fryer to 375°.
  • Cut pork belly into small squares or the size of a typical crouton.
  • Fry the green tomatoes, using no more than three at a time depending on your fryer setup. Note: If you pre-fried the tomatoes, heat them in a 350° oven until hot.
  • Fry until golden brown, remove from the fryer, and place on a paper towel to absorb excess oil.
  • Place one cup of the cut pork belly into the fryer and cook until crispy. Then, place the pork belly into a mixing bowl and toss to coat with some of the smoked tomato caramel sauce.
  • Place three or four of the fried green tomatoes on a plate, then top with the fried pork belly.
  • Lightly drizzle the smoked tomato caramel on top of the tomatoes and finish with dabs of Bulgarian feta.

Still want Chef John Zucker to cook for you? Visit him at Cru Café or check out Cru Catering for your next private event. Pssst: Don’t miss our Q+A with the chef.

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