Pickled Oysters on Toast by Jerome Grant

In 19th Century America, New York was the country’s oyster-eating capital, but the bivalves were consumed with gusto in most coastal cities by all segments of the population and sold everywhere from street stalls to oyster refectories. African Americans were among the legendary oystermen and none was more famous than Thomas Downing, who made a fortune using his knowledge of oyster culture, ending up as one of the city’s best-known restaurateurs. Unbeknownst to his fancy clients dining upstairs, the premises was a stop on the Underground Railroad.

Yield 4 portions
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
• 2 garlic cloves, minced
• ½ teaspoon dried red chili
• 1 bay leaf
• Kosher salt
• Aleppo pepper
• 1 1/2 cup water
• 1 1/2 cup Champagne vinegar
• 3 tablespoon honey
• 1 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
• 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
• 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
• 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
• 12 freshly shucked local oysters with their liquor, more on the sweeter side
• 1 cup lightly packed frisée, torn
• 2 tablespoon chives, thin sliced
• Molasses bread toast, or local rustic bread

1. In a medium saucepan, add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, shallots, garlic, red chile, bay leaf and cook over moderate heat, lightly sweating the shallots.
2. Add the water, vinegar, honey, lime zest and juice. Bring to a boil.
3. Transfer to a heatproof container and immediately add the oysters along with their liquor. Let the oysters cool at room temperature, then refrigerate till cool.
4. In a medium bowl, toss the frisée with the remaining olive oil and lemon juice and season with salt and Aleppo pepper. Serve the oysters with a little of the pickling liquid on molasses toast topped with the frisée and aioli.

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