The garlic carries this soup. While I add a ham hock for an extra layer of flavor you could easily leave it out, change the chicken stock to vegetable stock and have a delicious vegetarian soup. —David
Let beans soak overnight. Drain and rinse and cover by 2 inches of water. Add 2 t of salt and simmer for 20 minutes. Drain and rinse and add back to pot.
Add 1 onion, the carrot and celery, and 4 cloves of garlic, all coarsely chopped. Add ham hock, bay leaves and half of chicken stock. Slowly over med low heat bring to a simmer(so not to break the skins on the beans). Simmer for 20 minutes and pull off the heat.
In a separate large skillet or saucepan heat olive oil and add remaining garlic and onions all coarsely chopped. Add salt and pepper and reduce heat to med low, cover and stirring occasionally for 30 minutes.
Uncover, raise the heat to med and cook 10 more minutes until garlic and onions are golden in color. Add remaining stock and thyme and simmer 15 more minutes
Puree in blender or food processor. Remove ham hock and bay leaves from beans.
Add garlic mixture and cream to beans. Stir, adjust for seasonings and simmer for 15 minutes more.