Seared Halibut with Watercress, Potatoes, and Charred Lemon Sauce

Matthew Dolan

Twenty Five Lusk, San Francisco

We love this recipe from Chefs Boot Camp alum Matthew Dolan, where simply seared halibut filets (sustainable if sourced from the Pacific northwest) are paired with fingerling potatoes, apples, and a flavorful sauce featuring charred lemons, mustard, and thyme.


Charred Lemon Sauce:

  • 2 lemons, cut in half
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon chopped thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • 1 pound fingerling or baby potatoes, washed and cut into quarters
  • 1/4 cup neutral cooking oil
  • 1 cup Thai basil leaves, torn by hand into small pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • 1 tablespoon neutral cooking oil
  • Four 5-ounce halibut filets, skin off
  • 1 teaspoon salt

To serve:

  • 4 cups watercress, leaves and tender stems
  • 1 pink lady apple, cored, halved, and sliced into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup


Make the charred lemon sauce: set a dry sauté pan over high heat. Place the cut side of the lemons on the hot pan and sear until deeply caramelized and charred, about 3 minutes. Transfer the charred lemons to a plate and set aside until room temperature. In a blender, add all of the remaining ingredients and purée. Remove the seeds from the charred lemons and squeeze the juice into the blender while puréeing. Taste and adjust seasoning. Set aside.

Make the potatoes: in a small pot of cold water, add a bit of salt and the cut potatoes.  Bring to a boil and allow to simmer for 5 minutes until the potatoes are just beginning to soften; strain the potatoes. Set a sauté a pan over medium-high heat and heat the cooking oil. Carefully place the blanched potatoes in the pan. Move them around regularly in the pan so they evenly get some nice coloring. When they are golden brown on all sides and fork tender, about 6 minutes, remove from the oil using a slotted spoon to drain. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let the potatoes cool for 1 minute, and add the torn basil.

Meanwhile, cook the fish: in a medium-sized nonstick sauté pan set over high heat, heat the cooking oil. Lower the heat to medium. Pat the filets dry with a paper towel and season them with salt. Gently place the filets into the hot pan and cook for 30 seconds. Using a spatula, gently pull them away from the hot pan allowing the cooking oil to run underneath. Cook for 30 more seconds and continue to move the filets, ensuring that they do not stick to the pan. Cook the fish on one side for 3 minutes. Turn and flip them over and cook for 1 more minute and then turn off the heat.

To serve, place the potatoes, apple pieces, and watercress on 4 plates. Place the cooked halibut on top. Gently drizzle the maple syrup around the plate and follow by drizzling the charred lemon sauce around and on top.

Note: of course, you can get all of this on the plate as you prefer, but the idea is to place the fish last, and then serve immediately.


4 servings