When the dish made it across the Atlantic, it was a natural for potato's homeland, and there was always plenty of meat to throw this dish together easily. The more commonly known version, with the layer of corn between the meat and mash is very much an American heartland variation; when french Canadian laborers working in the US brought it back home, it was christened "pate Chinois" (Chinese pate), not because of the common myth that this was served to the Chinese migrant laborers working on the railroads (pate a Chinois), but because it originated from the town of China in Maine. The idea came from the fact that its pretty much a poor man's hearty dish, made with the cheapest and most commonly found items in any kitchen, and is designed that it can feed a small army for pretty cheap.
When you look at it, its one of those dishes that's nearly impossible to screw up; at most you might have lumpy mash potatoes, but its a pretty fool-proof recipe: brown the meat, spread onto a baking dish, layer corn, cover with mash, stick in the oven and cook till golden brown. Serve and enjoy.
Basic stuff. But it can easily be improved upon in simple ways, and cheap too. Its the power of creative thinking. In this version, I'll be exposing how to make a simple, yet delicious near-vegetarian dish that will make even hardcore carnivores ask for more., and most of it will be made using pantry stapes and leftovers.
A twelve inch pan should provide a good six-to-eight portions, depending on the appetite and whether it is served with a side-dish, like good bread, a salad or a soup.