1 pound smoked ham hocks (a meaty bone from a spiral-cut ham also works well)
1 pound dried black beans, picked over and rinsed
2 medium ripe tomatoes, cored
1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
1 medium onion
2 bay leaves
1 ounce epazote (about a handful)
salt and pepper to taste
about 3⁄4 cup crema fresca (Mexican-style sour cream) or crème fraîche
about 3⁄4 cup dry sherry
Put ham hocks, beans, carrots, tomatoes, garlic, onion, bay leaves, and epazote in a 6-quart stockpot and fill with water to 1K inches below rim. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 2 to 3 hours, partially covered, until beans are very tender, adding up to 4 cups of water if liquid level falls below half. Season with salt and pepper (if ham hocks are very salty, soup may not need additional salt). Remove from heat and let cool.
Remove and discard bay leaves. Remove ham hocks; discard skin and bones, then chop meat and set aside. Purée soup in batches until smooth. To serve, add reserved meat and reheat. Pour into individual bowls, topping each with crema fresca. Pass a small pitcher of sherry so guests may add a bit to their bowls. Serves 12.