- 1 pound black beans, picked over, rinsed and drained
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 carrot, diced
- 2 cloves
- 1 head garlic, halved crosswise
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 smoked ham hocks, about 1 1/2 pounds (substitute ham or bacon)
- 9 cups water
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup dry sherry or dark rum
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- Optional serving garnishes: Sour cream or creme fraiche, minced scallion or chives, crumbled cheese such as feta, queso fresco, or grated cheddar, diced red bell pepper, diced avocado, or minced jalapeno
Put the beans in a large saucepan and cover with cold water by 2-inches. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover, and set aside for 1 hour. Drain, and reserve the beans.
In a large soup pot heat the oil over medium to medium-high heat. Add the onions and carrots, and cook until lightly brown, about 10 minutes. Stick the cloves in the halves of the garlic. Add to the pot with the bay leaves, oregano, the beans and hocks. Add the water and bring to a full rolling boil. Season with 2 teaspoons salt. Adjust the heat to maintain a simmer, cook until beans and meat are tender, about 1 1/2 hours.
Pull the pot off the heat and cool slightly. Remove the hocks from the soup, set aside to cool. Remove the meat from the hocks, discarding the bones, fat and skin. Cut the meat into small cubes and reserve. Puree the soup, with an immersion blender or in batches in a blender until smooth. Additional water can be added to desired consistency. Add the sherry and vinegar and combine well. Return the soup to medium heat and simmer with the reserved meat. Season with additional salt and pepper, to taste. To serve, divide the soup among warmed bowls, and top with one or more of the garnishes, if desired.
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