The idea for Dinner for EightDinner for Eight is my first book, but I have been writing recipes for at least sixteen years. About three and a half years ago I went to the editor in charge of book development at the New York Times to say that I wanted to write a cookbook. I had a subject in mind, but he discouraged me from that idea and asked if I'd be interested in writing a book on entertaining, perhaps on dinner parties. My husband and I frequently had dinner parties, usually for eight people, so the subject was a good fit for me. My husband is a wine collector and a former publisher of wine books, and we always plan our dinner parties together, matching the food and wines. I asked him if he would do the wine pairings for my book, and I was so happy when he agreed.
Dinner for Eight has forty menus divided by season. Each menu has five recipes: an hors d'oeuvre meant to be eaten while standing, a first course, main course, side dish or accompaniment (such as bread) and a dessert. Each season has one fully vegetarian menu. There are suggestions for advance preparation, and three wine recommendations for each course except dessert, which has one. To write the book, I began by choosing some of my favorites from among the thousands of recipes I've tested over the years. I felt it was important to have menus that could be prepared by one person with a moderate amount of experience in the kitchen. Typically, a single menu might have one dish that can be made ahead and frozen, one or two that can be made days ahead of time, one that can be made earlier the same day, and one that is easily prepared at the last minute. Although the recipes are arranged in menus they can easily be mixed and matched, and of course they can be used alone. Each recipe serves eight people, but most can be cut in half. If a recipe can be frozen and I plan to serve it to fewer than eight, I like to make the full amount and freeze what will not be used immediately.