Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread coconut in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toast in oven, tossing once or twice, until lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Reserve 2 tablespoons for garnish.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, cook milk and sugar, stirring often, until sugar dissolves and mixture begins to bubble around the edges, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in coconut. Cover tightly; let stand 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, sprinkle gelatin over 1/4 cup cold water. Let soften, about 5 minutes. Strain warm coconut mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into gelatin mixture (left). Whisk until gelatin dissolves, then whisk in the half-and-half, vanilla, and salt.
Divide among four 8-ounce ramekins or custard cups; refrigerate until set, about 3 hours. When ready to serve, unmold. Sprinkle with reserved coconut.