- Place a plate or tray large enough to hold the fish on the work surface. Evenly sprinkle the surface of the plate/tray with half the salt.
- Lay the fillets skin-side down on the plate/tray, then sprinkle the remaining salt over the fish. Chill for 40 minutes.
- Make the tarragon butter by beating together the chopped tarragon, lemon zest and juice and butter in a small bowl. Very lightly season to taste, as the fish is already salty.
- Spoon the butter on to some greaseproof (wax) paper to roughly form a sausage shape – roll up the paper and gently roll it under your fingers until it forms a smooth cylinder.
- Chill until needed.
- Preheat 2 non-stick frying pans over a medium-high heat.
- Once hot, add 1–1½ tbsp olive oil to each pan, then add 3 salmon fillets, flesh-side down, to each pan.
- Fry briskly for 3 minutes, or until seared and golden, then turn and cook for 3–4 minutes, or until the skin is crisp and the salmon is just cooked through.
- Plate the salmon, topping each fillet with a round slice of tarragon butter. Serve immediately.
Fish and meat in European cooking are traditionally salted to help preserve them – for example, smoked salmon or duck confit. In countries such as China and Japan, salting is also used to change the texture of food and, equally importantly, to remove fishy or meaty odours, partly by extracting blood and bitter juices.
Dry salting, such as here, is used for oily fish such as mackerel, herring and salmon. The longer any ingredient is salted, the more liquid is extracted and the saltier the ingredient will taste. The art is to allow just enough salt to develop the umami tastes, but not so much that all the tastes are submerged beneath the salt. The tarragon butter adds a tempting rich texture and depth of flavour.
Recipe extracted from Sight, Smell, Touch, Taste, Sound: A New Way to Cook, Pavilion Books.