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Aug 29, 2013 05:51 PM

Freezer Meal Failure. Why?

I thought I would try one of those cook-all-day-and-freeze plans. I used recipes from Not Your Mother's Make Ahead and Freeze Cookbooks. I made the Chicken Divan and froze it. When I wanted to eat it, I thawed it for about 9 hours and cooked at 350 for 35 minutes. The cream sauce was non existent and the only liquid was just a flavored water. What did I do wrong?

To make the casserole, I steamed broccoli and put it down as the first layer, then chopped cooked chicken for the second layer, then homemade "canned" cream of celery soup (recipe is from the same book) mixed with sour cream, parm, lemon juice, sherry and mustard. Then topped with cheddar cheese and Chex crumbs. I only changed three things--Chex cereal instead of bread crumbs (I have celiac), split the recipe into two meals instead of one, and used Bob's Red Mill GF All Purpose flour in the celery soup recipe. I'm thinking it's either just a bad recipe or the GF flour. When I made the canned celery soup, it thickened up quite nicely and was tasty. Does it get watery when it's frozen? Where did my sauce go?

Your wisdom is greatly appreciated.

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  1. I have a few thoughts which might help with trouble shooting.

    I find that saucy things "shrink" a bit when frozen so I usually increase the sauce amount to adjust for that. I haven't had much luck with sour cream based sauces in the freezer - they seem to break down for me.

    The sauce could have become diluted if the broccoli was damp from the steaming. I can't imagine the change in topping was the problem.

    Sauces made with wheat flour hold up longer - which is why it is used so frequently. Alternative flours will have differing qualities - so this may have been why the sauce broke. If you try this again I'd switch out the sauce for a recipe from a GF cookbook - Bette Hagman's recipes generally work well.

    Hope that helps, it is always disappointing when you put in so much effort and the dish doesn't work.

    1. Did you use frozen broccoli? Steamed frozen broccoli will give off a LOT of liquid.

      Also GF breadbrumbs may be a better sub, i'm not sure the chex would have absorbed as much moisture as bread crumbs would

      1. Did you use fat-free sour cream? That has different behavior from full-fat.

        1. After reheating, make a light GF roux, temper. Drain the rest of the liquids into it, whisk, and return to the pot.

          Works for me.

          1. I'm suspecting the source of the problem might be the broccoli, too. Did you use fresh or frozen, and how did you purge the water out of it before making the casserole?

            One other question comes to mind, what is the thickening agent you used for the cream sauce? A flour based roux, given the GF all purpose flour substitution you mentioned? I looked up the ingredients for the product (garbanzo bean flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, white sorghum flour, and fava bean flour). I'm not sure how all those ingredients would work as far as thickening agents, potato starch is actually a stronger thickening agent than flour would be, but I don't know how/if it reacts to freezing, and I certainly don't know if the freezing or heat would impact the other ingredients as far as their thickening power. You might do better using a straight thickening agent such as potato starch, corn starch, or guar gum, all of which I believe are gluten free.

            ETA: The idea of making extra sauce is a good one.