Oysters Two Ways

Savory Recipes, Winter • 16 Jan 2012

For many, tasting an oyster for the first time is a memorable culinary milestone. Crisp, icy flesh slides down the throat, sometimes delighting, sometimes shocking and sometimes revolting. Nuanced, briny flavors stimulate the tongue. Consuming something so fresh and dynamic, tasting of the vivacious environment from which it came, titillates thrill-seekers and pleasure-hunters.

I recently brought home a half dozen Kusshi, which are still somewhat rare on the East Coast. Kusshis are grown in British Columbia. The name means “precious” in Japanese and they are known for their deep, cavernous shell which yields plump, soft and juicy flesh, and a clean, smooth flavor.

I love most oysters: big, small, tender, chewy, coppery, lemony, brassy, cucumbery, sweet, melony and creamy. Sometimes nothing beats Wellfleet oysters, ubiquitous on the East Coast, and the very first variety I ever tasted. Eating Wellfleets recalls trips to Cape Cod, the smell of the salty air, the sand between my toes, the oysters tasting sweetly of Atlantic Ocean seaweed. I find myself partial to Pacific Northwest oysters, however, like the Kusshi or Kumamoto, both petite and sweet, tender and juicy.

I hadn’t opened an oyster in over ten years when we brought the Kusshis home. Prying an oyster open is a primal act. A quick twist of the wrist reveals a creature’s habitat, exposing its naked, still-quivering flesh, ready for instantaneous consumption. Eating the tiny bivalve is visceral because of their rawness. Nary a minute lapses between life, death and mastication. Opening an oyster for the first time is thrilling but also an emotional rite of passage.

Oyster purists prefer their bivalves undressed or with a simple squeeze of lemon, revealing their uniquely briny personalities and ocean-salt nuances. I served the Kusshis plain and dressed up with apple kimchi and yuzu mignonette. Kusshis are ideal unadorned, their small bodies tender and fleshy between the gums and their flavor delicate and sweet.

While the apple kimchi is bold and sweet, and packs a spicy punch, it drowns out the naturally mild flavor of the Kusshi. To make the apple kimchi, you can use homemade or good quality store-bought kimchi. Blend it to a near pulp and mix with diced apples. I suggest using apple kimchi for brinier oysters like Kachemak Bay or Island Creek.

For the Kusshi, we preferred the mouth-puckering and citrusy yuzu mignonette to the apple kimchi. For a half dozen oysters I use half a finely diced shallot, or about 1 tablespoon, about 1/2 teaspoon of yuzu juice and rice wine vinegar. The yuzu is tart and briny and brings out the naturally sweet and cucumber flavored flesh of the Kusshis.

I recommend making both the kimchi and mignonette to meet your taste needs. I like my apple kimchi with a lot of kimchi while others tend to prefer it sweeter. In that case, use less kimchi and more diced apple.

Apple Kimchi

1 apple, cut into a 1-inch dice
1/4 cup kimchi

Puree kimchi in a blender to a fine chop but not quite a puree. Mix with freshly cut apples. Serve right away or refrigerate for up to 4 hours.

Yield: About 1 cup apple kimchi

Yuzu Mignonette

1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon yuzu, or to taste
Ground black pepper to taste
Salt to taste, optional

Combine ingredients and chill. Serve with oysters on the half shell.

Yield: About 1/4 cup or enough for half dozen dozen oysters

2 Responses

  1. Kusshi Oysters

    Enjoyed reading about your Kusshi experience. Loved the apple kimchi idea. I have some great new Kusshi photographs that I would love to share with you. Where can we email?

    For Immediate Release: February 2nd, 2012
    Oysters and Orchids – An Extraordinary Romance

    Although roses are an ancient symbol of love and beauty, it is the elegant and exotic purple color of an Orchid that represents love, luxury and virility.
    Orchids, when paired with the aphrodisiac qualities of Oysters, set the scene for an extraordinary Valentine’s experience. Throughout the centuries from Aphrodite to Casanova, Oysters have long been a favorite of food lovers and romantics. Together Oysters and Orchids are the ultimate symbol of sensuality for extraordinary romantics.

    Finding the perfect oyster
    Years ago chefs were asked “What constitutes the perfect oyster?” After much deliberation, it was decided that the perfect oyster would have three main characteristics. The meat would be consistently plump, firm, fresh, and delicious. The cup had to be remarkably deep and consistently sized, and the shell would be smooth, non-brittle and easy to open.

    After many years of careful cultivation the Kusshi, which means ‘ultimate’ in Japanese, was created. Considered to be one of the finest oysters available in the world today, the Kusshi is an exquisite delicacy, grown exclusively by one family, using proprietary practices that have been passed down through the generations from father to son.

    Oysters 101
    There are three factors which will influence the flavor and quality of an oyster:-
    1. Merroir – The Ocean Growing Region
    Just as grapes bring the regional flavor of the earth, terroir, into our wines, so too will an oyster take on the distinct flavors and salinity of the ocean in each growing region, making side by side oyster tastings a wonderfully romantic pastime.
    2. Depth
    Inter-tidal beach oysters need to develop a thick protective shell to survive. With a twice daily work out, opening and closing with the tides, beach oysters can become very strong and can sometimes be difficult to open. Although deep-water, cultured oysters are easier to open, having been grown suspended in the ocean in baskets, their shells can be brittle leaving fragmented pieces of shell in the oyster liquor or nectar – the delicious liquid that surrounds the oyster.
    3. Farming Technique
    Just as we prune an apple tree to increase and direct more energy into the fruit, meat growth in the Kusshi Oyster is promoted as each shell is carefully trimmed of the brittle new shell growth. Like the delicate and patient creation of a bonsai tree, Kusshi farmers work to produce a remarkably smooth shelled, deep-cupped oyster that is almost as deep as it is long. The Kusshi is a pampered little oyster that has never touched the beach. Having been sustainably grown while suspended in the ocean in little baskets, Kusshi’s are remarkably easy to open.

    The Kusshi Kiss. The Kusshi is an exquisite delicacy with a flavor that starts salty, transitions to sweet, and finishes with a delightfully mild fruity taste. Eating a Kusshi is like being kissed by the ocean.
    Like a perfect grape or cherry tomato, Kusshi oyster meat is firm and plump. The Kusshi is a small cocktail sized oyster, that is most flavorful when chewed toward the front of your mouth.
    The small firm meat makes the Kusshi an ideal choice for first-time oyster eaters.

    Loved by oyster connoisseurs, chefs, oyster bar staff, oyster virgins and romantic couples alike, it is often said that if you don’t like Kusshi’s, you don’t like oysters. Happy Valentine’s Day.

    For more information about Kusshi Oysters and high resolution file transfer details please email your request to:
    Sandra Hamilton
    Kusshi Oysters, Twentyten Group Marketing

  2. Hi Sandra! Thanks for sending your Kusshi article. They were new to me (I’m on the East Coast) and I was blown away by their beauty and flavor. You are lucky to have Kusshi’s aplenty in your region! Email me at my first name @ katesonders dot com.

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