Eating Adventures

Yak Liver Makes a Surprising Appearance at the Way Back

This tagliatelle gets a boost of flavor from an uncommon ingredient: yak liver.
This tagliatelle gets a boost of flavor from an uncommon ingredient: yak liver. Mark Antonation
The Way Back's chefs, Marcus Eng and Samuel Charles, hold monthly test-lab dinners so that guests can weigh in on potential new dishes for the West Highland eatery's seasonal menu. A recent kitchen creation with an unusual ingredient was a surprise hit with diners, but fit in perfectly with the Way Back's mission of using local, sustainable ingredients.

Yak are well adapted to cold, high-altitude living and require less feed than cattle, making them a good alternative source of meat in the Rocky Mountain region. Eng purchases yak liver sourced from a Colorado farm and uses it to make a tagliatelle dish that customers have responded well to, he says.

The liver is soaked in milk for two days before being cooked to give it a gentler flavor. According to Eng, the key to good liver, yak or otherwise, is not to overcook it, which prevents the meat from becoming grainy. Once done, the liver is turned into a mousse with plenty of butter and cream and a little sherry. That mousse coats a swirl of housemade pasta showered with pine nuts, sage leaves and Cacio Pecora cheese from Fruition Farm.

The mild, earthy flavor of the liver balances well with the herbs and nuts in the dish, showing that the chefs really understand flavor profiles and combinations. Maybe yak isn't a protein you've encountered on Denver menus — especially not the liver — but the Way Back offers an excellent introduction to this alternative to standard beef, pork and chicken.
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Mark Antonation is the former Westword Food & Drink Editor. In 2018, he was named Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association; he's now with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.
Contact: Mark Antonation