Cooking With the Beasties
The ‘Beastie Boys Book’ Contains Multitudes. Even Roy Choi Recipes.
I’ve been sitting on this brick of a Beastie Boys book for a few weeks now. Actually, to call it simply a book seems belittling, quite honestly. Beastie Boys Book, now a New York Times bestseller, is so much more than a simple autobiography or memoir in the classic sense of the term. In essence, it’s more like an almanac or an atlas—one that if you’re of a certain age and grew up in the Empire State can trace back your entire youth. That is, of course, if you hung out with the right people in the 80s and 90s.
I’m not even going to act like I read the whole thing, because I didn’t. Much like many of us did with their short-lived but universally beloved Grand Royal magazine, reading it by page order was not only unrequired but discouraged as well in a way. It’s essentially a book on the Beasties’ four-decade history that reads like a 590-page issue of Grand Royal, or Paul’s Boutique in a readable format. It’s super deep, with not only insight by the King Ad Rock and Mike D the Ladies’ Choice, but most of their friends as well, including from Amy Poehler, Colson Whitehead, Wes Anderson, Luc Sante, Kate Schellenbach, Jonathan Lethem….the list goes on and on and on.
There’s a graphic novel in this thing, as well as maps, playlists, a full two-page spread of Yonah Shimmel, an illustration of the beloved and sadly shuttered St. Marks Place record shop Sounds, tons of pics that bring you right into the Beasties’ inner dwellings, a Spike Jonze photo essay, street stories galore and a biography on the immortal Nathanial Hörnblowér. However, my favorite part of Beastie Boys Book is the cookbook 431 pages in, conspired by Korean BBQ kingpin Roy Choi after a chance meeting between the chef and Mike D at Choi’s restaurant A-Frame.
“And we clicked right in the moment,” Choi says in his intro to the cookbook, titled Ate O Ate: A Roy Choi Cookbook. “And now I’m here writing a cook book for you to cook from in this Beastie Boys book. Trip the fuck out!”
For Choi, the Beasties and their music has been essential to his love for both music and cuisine.
“Paul’s Boutique has so much food,” he recalls in the intro. “I love this album because it thinks like a cook. Not in just the food references but in what the album did after the success of Licensed to Ill. As cooks and chefs, we love to take the most popular things off the menu because in many cases they weren’t meant to incite that certain reaction or to become popular in the first place….We love those dishes that become standards that everyone wants to come back for—but sometimes we just want to remove them all and make a Paul’s Boutique.”
Choi offers six recipes here, largely named after Beastie Boys songs. There are three in particular worth checking out:
Car Thief–This is a classic, New York blend slop plate of hamburger meat, cheese and shredded potatoes. It calls for a touch of olive oil and “lots” of butter, but if you reverse that you might have tastier and healthier results. Also, he says to use American cheese, but I’m certain a nice block of Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar would do this dish nicely as well. However, you can tell by the photos adjacent to the recipe Ad Rock is loving that shit.
Get It Together–You can never go wrong with a good grilled cheese. This BBQ Grilled Cheese dish calls for a half-pound of elbow macaroni, boiled and cooled, and a half-pound of shredded cheddar with a half cup of milk. Then things start to get weird. For the BBQ sauce, he asks you to use a store-bought bottle of your favorite (you can never go wrong with good old TR), then a pineapple and four tablespoons of olive oil. This seems to me like putting pineapples on a pizza, which must be a total Los Angeles thing. I’m from New York. Pineapples don’t belong on grilled cheese or a pizza. However, if you completely ignore the sweetening aspect of this dish and proceed as follows, you’ll have yourself one tasty grilled cheese.
One Potato Chip–This is perhaps the most valuable lesson offered in this portion of the book. You might not want to use a big pot of hot oil to start, maybe a little saucepan of hot oil for safety purposes. But Choi does reveal the secret to making the perfect homemade potato chip on pg. 444 in the book. You can also employ this recipe to make great French fries as well. Just be careful. Hot oil is unforgiving. Just like the beat on Sabotage.