The year’s first wild salmon, whether king or sockeye, has incredibly brilliant red flesh; an exquisite, sweet, mild flavor; and a tender, velvetlike texture.

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Makes 6 servings


1 ½ pounds king salmon fillet, skin off and pin bones removed

Salt and pepper

½ cup heavy cream

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Pinch of cayenne

½ teaspoon lemon zest

1 tablespoon snipped chives

2 tablespoons butter

Tarragon leaves, for garnish

Watercress, for garnish

Violets, nasturtiums or other edible flower petals for garnish (optional)


1. Slice salmon diagonally into six 4-ounce portions about ½- to ¾-inch thick (or have your fishmonger slice it). Place on a cutting board or baking sheet. Season both sides generously with salt and pepper.

2. Put cream in a mixing bowl and beat with a whisk until just barely thickened. Add ¼ teaspoon salt, some freshly ground pepper, the mustard, the cayenne and the lemon zest. Beat again until soft peaks form, but don’t let the cream get too stiff. Fold in chives. Taste and adjust seasoning.

3. Put butter in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. When butter begins to foam, add salmon pieces and reduce heat slightly. Cook gently on one side for about two minutes, then flip and cook one minute more. Turn off heat and let rest for two minutes. Salmon should be cooked through but moist. Be careful not to overcook.

4. Transfer salmon to a platter or individual plates. Spoon some savory whipped cream over each serving. Garnish with tarragon, watercress and flowers, if desired.

— David Tanis, The New York Times