20-Minute Alaska Salmon with Pistachio-Parsley Pesto

Why yes, you can cook your salmon from frozen.

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We all have our go-to, no-brainer meals for when we have little energy and yet need to get dinner on the table stat. Maybe you scramble up eggs or eat a sad bowl of cereal. Perhaps you’ve got a quick pasta dish up your sleeve. Or maybe you just order takeout. We’re here to tell you there’s another way. If you keep wild Alaska salmon in your freezer, a healthy and delicious meal is always within arm’s reach (plus, it’s quicker, cheaper, and probably better for you than delivery).

Let’s get a few things out of the way. If you don't like the idea of frozen fish, we have a news flash for you: Unless you’re getting fish straight from the source, chances are the salmon you’re buying “fresh” has probably been previously frozen and thawed. The technology is such that most commercial fishing boats have the capacity to clean, cut, and flash-freeze fish almost immediately, thus ensuring it is at peak freshness when it arrives in your freezer. The key, as with anything, is to opt for the highest quality fish you can find, which for us always means wild Alaska seafood. We can trust that it has been sustainably sourced and frozen immediately, so it’s always as fresh as the day it was caught.

The next big misconception is that frozen fish requires forethought because you need to remember to thaw it. The truth is that you can cook wild Alaska salmon directly from frozen with absolutely beautiful results—and virtually no advance planning.

We’ve been playing around with all the best ways to cook Alaska salmon from frozen, and this is one of our favorites. Pan-searing it with the lid on allows the steam to build and speed up the thawing process while the bottom still browns perfectly. Flip it and finish cooking uncovered, and you’ve got impeccable, moist salmon in about 10 minutes.

You can use this method and serve in a million ways—on top of a salad or grain bowl, alongside some quickly sautéed vegetables, or in between bread for a speedy sandwich. Here we’ve topped it with a pistachio-parsley pesto that adds a restaurant-quality flavor profile with minimal extra work. This is a fun riff on your standard pesto, which subs pistachios for the pine nuts and parsley for the basil. The result is a rich topping for salmon with a subtle natural sweetness that perfectly complements the omega 3–rich fish.

Pan-Seared Alaska Salmon with Pistachio-Parsley Pesto

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How to Pan Sear Frozen Wild Alaska Salmon

Yield: Serves 4
Active time: 15 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

1/2 cup (3 ounces) plus 2 tablespoons shelled roasted pistachios
1/2 cup (1/2 ounce) firmly packed parsley leaves and stems
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (.3 oz; 9g)
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 (6-ounce) Alaska salmon fillets, frozen
1 lemon, quartered

Directions

1. Roughly chop 2 tablespoons pistachios and set aside.

2. Put remaining 1/2 cup of pistachios in food processor along with parsley, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and garlic, and pulse until roughly chopped. With the machine running, gradually pour in 1/4 cup of olive oil and lemon juice, and blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice, if desired. Set aside. Pesto can be made and refrigerated up to a week and frozen for 3 months; defrost if necessary and bring back to room temperature before using.

3. Heat large pan over medium-high heat. Run frozen Alaska salmon fillets under cold water to remove any ice glaze and pat dry with a paper towel. Brush both sides with oil. Arrange in an even layer in pan, skin-side up (if using skin-on fillets) and cook, uncovered, 3-4 minutes, until browned. Flip and season with salt and pepper. Cover and reduce heat to medium, then cook for an additional 6-8 minutes until lightly browned on both sides and cooked through. Salmon should be opaque and flake easily with a fork. For thicker portions, finish in an oven preheated to 400°F (use an ovenproof pan).

4. Put each fillet on a plate and spoon about 2 tablespoons pistachio-parsley pesto over each. Sprinkle reserved chopped pistachios over top and serve with a lemon wedge.

Want more ways to cook your Alaska salmon from frozen? Try our recipes for Instant Pot Alaska Salmon and Farro Bowl with Pickled Cucumbers and Kimchi, Grilled Alaska Salmon with Crispy Garlicky Chickpeas, and Honey-Soy Alaska Salmon with Charred Scallions and Black Sesame Seeds.