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Cream Of Shiitake Mushroom Soup

1 qt Milk; whole, low-fat or skim
1 sm Onion; peeled and stuck with
2 Cloves
6 Whole peppercorns (or more)
1 pn Salt


Bouquet Garni:
Tie in cheesecloth,
6 Fresh parsley stems,
1/2 ts Dried leaf thyme
1/2 Bay leaf

Soup, Continued:
4 tb Rice flour (or barley or oat flour)
4 tb Cold milk (about)
8 oz Shiitake mushrooms

Optional:
6 tb Heavy cream
2 tb Madeira
Reserved mushroom slices


PLACE THE MILK, ONION, peppercorns, salt and bouquet garni in a saucepan and bring slowly to a boil. Form a smooth paste of the rice flour and the cold milk. Put into the just-boiling milk and stir briskly until there are no lumps. Simmer over very low heat for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, cut off the tough ends of the mushroom stems. Reserve a few mushroom slices for garnish and chop the remaining mushrooms coarsely, then place in a food processor with a steel blade and chop as finely as possible. Strain the milk mixture through a fine sieve back into the saucepan; add the chopped mushrooms and continue simmering 5 minutes. Add the cream and Madeira, if you wish, and serve in hot bowls, garnished with a slice of mushroom.


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