For Meat: In medium saucepan combine 3 tablespoons kosher salt and 1 tablespoon brown sugar to 1 cup water. Cook over medium flame, stirring occasionally, until salt and brown sugar dissolve. Remove from flame; add remaining 1/2 cup water. Pour mixture into 9x9-inch baking pan. Cover and let sit 25 minutes. Place pork belly in pan, fat side up; cover and refrigerate 24 hours.
Preheat oven to 275°F. Remove pork from mixture and rinse with cold water. Pat dry with paper towel and rub with 1 tablespoon kosher salt, remaining 2 tablespoons brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
Heat 1/2 tablespoon canola oil in ovenproof cast iron skillet; add pork and brown over medium heat 2 minutes per side, starting with fatty side. Remove from heat and cover.
Bake 1 hour and 45 minutes or until fork-tender. Remove from oven and cool pork completely (about 1 hour). Cover pork with parchment paper and press a flat, heavy skillet (such as cast iron) on top of pork belly. Refrigerate with heavy object over 10 hours.
Cut pork belly into desired thickness.
For Onion-Fig Spread: In medium saucepan over medium-low flame, combine onion, olive oil and remaining salt and pepper. Cook until onions begin to caramelize (about 15 minutes).
Add 1/2 cup apple juice to deglaze. Scrape any hard bits off bottom of pan with wooden spoon. Add figs and simmer 10 to 15 minutes or until tender enough to break apart with wooden spoon. Stir in honey and simmer 10 to 12 more minutes. Add additional apple juice, if desired, if too thick. Set aside.
For Walnuts: Preheat oven to 350°F. On baking sheet, spread walnuts evenly in single layer and bake 5 to 7 minutes until toasted; do not let burn. Remove from oven and cool.
Pour sugar into medium saucepan and cook over medium flame. Once sugar begins to melt, continuously stir with wooden spoon. When sugar is melted and amber in color, immediately add walnuts and swiftly stir, making sure all walnuts are covered with caramelized sugar.
Remove nuts from pan and spread on baking pan lined with parchment paper, using forks to separate. Work quickly.
Constructing Sandwich: Heat remaining 1/2 tablespoon canola oil in cast iron pan over medium flame and heat second large heavy-duty skillet over medium-low flame. In pan with oil, cook the sliced pork belly on each side until crisp. In small bowl, mix butter, mayonnaise and Wisconsin parmesan. Spread butter mixture on 1 side of 4 slices of bread. Evenly cover opposite sides with 1 tablespoon each of onion-fig spread. Place all bread slices in skillet over medium-low flame, buttered-side-down.
Place 1/4 of sliced Wisconsin brie on top of each bread slice in skillet. Do not allow slices to touch. Firmly press 1 tablespoon chopped candied walnuts into each brie slice. Place crisped pork belly over and sprinkle with fresh thyme. Place sliced pear over pork. Add baby arugula and sprinkle with shredded chocolate. Carefully flip the sandwich and cook, pressing lightly with a spatula until golden brown and cheese is melted, about 2-3 minutes. Cut sandwiches in half and serve.
- 4 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt, divided
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar, packed, divided
- 1 1/2 cup water, divided
- 1 1-pound pork belly
- 1 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground, divided
- 1 tablespoon canola oil, divided
- 3/4 cup yellow onion, diced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup apple juice plus additional, if desired
- 1 cup fresh or dried figs (halved)
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 cup walnut pieces
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons mayonnaise
- 3 tablespoons Wisconsin Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- 4 1-inch thick slices French sourdough bread
- 6 to 7 ounces Wisconsin Brie cheese, sliced
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
- 1 Bosc pear, cored and sliced
- 1 1/2 cups baby arugula
- 2 teaspoons 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate, finely shredded