Recreating family recipes for the perfect fried chicken and flan

I had a morning paper route as a kid and on Saturday’s I finished delivering papers by 7am and made bacon and eggs for breakfast – no one else was awake yet.

My grandfather loved food and used to call me into the kitchen and say, “hey, try this”. He subscribed to Gourmet and I paid attention. Ten thousand Saturday morning cooking shows later and a lot experimenting, I developed some skills and infinite quest to try new things.

When my wife and I were first married we went to see her grandmother in Henderson Texas and she would always make the best fried chicken for lunch and flan for dessert. She was in her late 80’s. The flan was always made when we got there and I didn’t quite pay enough attention to the fried chicken recipe albeit I stood there in the kitchen watching her make it. 

It was always something I knew I would come back to and recently, I’ve been trying to replicate the fried chicken and flan. 

Fabulous Fried Chicken 

I began tackling the chicken by surveying some of my favorite chefs fried chicken recipes including Emeril, Bobby Flay, Stephen Pyles, Dean Fearing and Cynthia Paulson. I found some common themes of using a marinade and either an egg or butter milk wash. But none of the early attempts hit the mark. Flavor was “good” not great and texture was off – oil wasn’t hot enough.


I use a product called “Better Than Boullion” to flavor short ribs and when I discovered they had a chicken stock, I tried that on the Fried Chicken, (6-7 hours marinading). Flavor went from good to “great”!

Chicken Size

I did some fried chicken “marketing research” at bay area restaurants and noticed a theme of smaller pieces than the full bone in chicken breasts I had been using. So, I cut those

same breast in two and also increased the depth of the cooking oil (Crisco of course) and made sure the cooking temp staying very close to 350 degrees. Those changes created perfection – several times now! 

Physics of Flan

I found a great recipe but it was designed for small individual portions and I wanted to make a large portion that could be served at any size.

With that I had to explore different types of “flan pans” and ultimately landed on a nine inch square ceramic dish (2 inches deep). 

I then had to up the volume of the recipe by 50% and also figure out the cook time, (75 min at 325).

Lastly, perfecting the caramel took some attempts to understand how much time to continue cooking after the first signs of caramel color appears (about 1 min). 

After the all experimenting above, my wife finally proclaimed “ this is as great as Grandma Cheek’s” and that’s when I knew I got it! I wrote the recipes down….