1 pound navy beans or white beans, soaked overnight
3 ham hocks
1 gallon (16 cups) chicken broth
1 bay leaf
2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 stalks celery, cut into small dice
2 large carrots, cut in small dice
1 large onion cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 medium onion, left whole
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 whole cloves
3 medium Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Hot sauce, to taste (optional)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme
Drain the soaked beans and discard the water.
Place the beans, ham hocks, chicken broth, and bay leaf in a soup pot; do not add salt at this stage.
Bring to a boil and simmer for about 1 hour, depending on how long the beans were soaked.
Heat the oil in a separate saucepan, add the celery, carrots, and diced onion, and sauté over medium heat, until softened, about 2 minutes.
Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant.
Stud the whole onion with the cloves.
Stir the sautéed vegetables into the beans, add the whole onion and diced potatoes, and return to a boil.
Reduce the heat, and simmer until the beans and potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes.
Remove the whole onion, bay leaf, and ham hocks.
Remove the meat from the ham hocks, and dice, discarding the fat and bones.
Purée half of the soup in a blender, and return the purée to the remaining soup in the pot, along with the diced ham.
Reheat the soup, and season to taste with salt and pepper and hot sauce if desired.
Finally finish the soup with the addition of the parsley and thyme.